Life

How I Finally Quit Porn — and How You Can, Too

My hands trembled. 

With a mixture of boyish curiosity and nervous apprehension, I rustled through page after page of religious jargon, definitions and other mumbo-jumbo. I had a burning question, and this book had the answer. The problem was, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what I’d find.

After what felt like an eternity of searching, I found what I was looking for. As my eyes fell upon the page, the words pierced my heart with truth. An icy fear overwhelmed me. I closed the book, fell upon my bed and sobbed. 

I was going to hell.

 

***

 

(Note: As I type this, my hands are, again, trembling. I’ve avoided writing about this for a long time. But after a recent conversation with a good friend, I left with the conviction that, despite my fears, this story must be shared. Here goes nothing.)

A friend introduced me to porn when I was twelve or thirteen years old. He showed it to me late one night after my parents had gone to bed. At first, I refused to look at it; something inside me knew it was wrong. But before long, I’d developed a habit of viewing porn. 

Now, I was a God-fearing, CCD-attending kid — altar boy and everything. I knew the Ten Commandments, the seven sacraments and the difference between mortal and venial sin. I knew if somebody died in a state of mortal sin, then his soul was in serious jeopardy. But I also thought that grave sins were things like adultery and murder — you know, serious stuff.

That’s why, on the day at church when my mom handed me an “examination of conscience aid” to review, I wasn’t too worried. I’d seen sheets like this before: They were supposed to help you remember all the times you hit your sister, stole cookies from the cookie jar, yada yada yada.

But that fateful day, my eyes caught a pair of words I’d never noticed before: “pornography” and “masturbation.” My heart sank. As soon as we got home, I ran to my room, shut the door, grabbed my copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, flipped to the relevant section and — well, you know the rest.

Why do I tell this story? It’s because my journey with pornography is one of guilt, shame, and — you guessed it — fear of hell. And I have a feeling if you’re reading this post, then at least to some degree yours is too.

I want to share with you the realization that finally allowed me to kick the porn habit for good. That lesson I learned is this: 

If fear of hell is your primary motivation, you will never root porn out of your life. 

I didn’t quit using porn when I found out it was a grave sin. Throughout high school and into college, it took a greater hold in my life. In moments of stress, depression or isolation, I turned to porn as a temporary distraction from the pain. But with it came more guilt, more shame — and, of course, the fear of eternal damnation. 

Why couldn’t I beat it? Why couldn’t I quit for good? 

I wasn’t ignorant. I’d gone to the Jason Evert chastity talks and read the Matt Fradd anti-porn blogs. What I learned filled me with disgust and hatred for the porn industry. 

But I still couldn’t quit for good.

I took preventative measures. I set alarms on my phone to remind me to pray throughout the day. I hung a crucifix on the wall in my room. 

But I still couldn’t quit for good.

I went to confession again and again. Each time, I became a new man — guiltless, forgiven, made clean by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. 

But I still couldn’t quit for good.

No matter how many times I confessed the same sin, it kept coming back. It was always the same old cycle: fall, guilt, confession, a time of purity, another fall, the return of guilt….

Wash, rinse, repeat.

And then, one day, I quit for good.

 

***

 

I was on a retreat, and I had fallen the night before. As I waited in line for confession, it occurred to me that, when I’d viewed pornography the night before, I’d done so knowing I’d have a chance to go to confession the next day.

It dawned on me that, not only had I committed a sin against purity, I had also committed the sin of presumption. I had presumed God’s mercy: I’d taken it for granted, as something that was owed to me. It was as if I’d intentionally driven my car through mud puddles, just for the fun of it, thinking, “It’s fine — Joe’s Carwash is always open. I’ll just take it through tomorrow.” 

I decided that, in addition to the sins against purity, I should probably confess presumption as well. 

It was a good decision.

I’ll never forget the priest’s response. He said, “As long as you see confession as a mere cleansing, you will never overcome this sin. The fear of hell is not enough. The only way you will overcome this sin is with a genuine love for God.”

His words hit me like a ton of bricks. In that moment, I realized it: All along, I had been motivated by fear and not by love. I’d been so caught up in following “the rules” of the Catholic faith that I’d forgotten why the rules were there in the first place. 

The talks I listened to, the prayer alarms I set, the crucifix I hung on the wall: All of these things were good. But they weren’t enough. They couldn’t replace an authentic love for God. 

When I made my act of contrition, a single phrase jumped out at me in a way it never had before:

“I confess all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell — but most of all, because they offend You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love.” 

I don’t know how many times I’d said that particular line of that particular prayer, but in that moment, I realized I’d never truly meant it. 

For my penance, my confessor asked me to make a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain. When I reached the top, I was to pray to God to give me the grace to love Him, and for all of my actions to be motivated by love for God rather than fear of hell.

I made the pilgrimage. And I remained at the top of that mountain, in prayer, for a long while. I had a feeling that day would be a pivotal one in my life.

 

***

 

Since that day, by God’s grace, I have not fallen to the sins of pornography nor masturbation, nor have I felt tempted to these sins in any serious way. 

I can’t explain how it happened. All I can say is it is a gift, a grace from God, to be finally free from the sin that has plagued me for so many years. 

I share this story not to boast but to proclaim from the rooftops: There is hope.

If you’ve read this far, it’s safe to say you’re reading this for a reason. What if Jesus is asking you to quit porn today? What if He’s led you to this blog post because he wants you to pause right now — as I did — to beg Him for the grace to love Him and to be always motivated by this love?

Maybe you’ve been struggling with porn for years. Maybe you think you’ve tried everything, and that quitting is impossible. I’m here to tell you: With God’s grace, all things are possible! 

You CAN be free from the shackles of porn. You CAN stop lying to yourself and to others. You CAN stop worrying who’s going to find out, stop feeling nervous when someone else uses your computer and stop falling deeper into isolation. 

For my own part, I see now there is a real freedom that comes with kicking porn to the curb. Now, more than ever in my life, I feel ready to pursue my vocation as husband and father. I know that when that time comes, I will be that much freer to give my life for my future wife and kids.

Maybe you personally don’t struggle with pornography. If that’s the case, thanks be to God! But I promise that you have a close friend or family member who does — and that friend or family member needs to hear this message of hope. I beg you to share it with him or her. 

Winning the battle for purity is not about gritting your teeth, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and shaming yourself every time you fall.

It’s about receiving God’s love, learning to love Him in return, and making every decision as an outpouring of that love.

I can’t say this is easy, or that giving your struggle over to God in one mountain-top experience is a magic bullet for overcoming porn. It’s still going to take work.   

What I can say is that, by giving my struggle over to God, I’ve found a peace, freedom and hope I’d never dreamed of. He wants to extend the same peace, freedom and hope to you.


I invite you to pause, right now, and pray the following prayer:

 

Dear Jesus, I don’t know how to love you as I ought. I beg you to show me how to love you. I want to be free from the shackles of pornography and masturbation. I know that you have great plans for me. I desire to be a man (woman) living the freedom of chastity and to fulfill my vocation to love in whatever capacity you are calling me to. Show me how to love you. Help me to make every decision not out of fear of hell but out of love for you. Please help me to never commit the sins of pornography and masturbation ever again. Protect me in times of trial and temptation, and in these moments, lead me ever closer to your Sacred Heart. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.