Pray for us

Today is Saint Agnes’s feast day.

In her honor, I added her medal to my brown scapular (it used to have a St. Benedict medal, but I wear another St. Benedict medal elsewhere).

Brown scapular with St. Agnes medal

I’ve been doing well. Things are good with Dove. I have a lot I want to write and share, but I find myself very busy again and not having time to sit down and do it. I’ll make an effort.

Dear sister Agnes, please pray for us. I need God’s grace to overcome.

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A failure to love

I’m still alive.

I’ve been struggling. But I’m still struggling; I haven’t given up.

I hit the ground hard not long after my last post, right at 120 days. I don’t even remember what pulled me down. I was stressed out and anxious, and a temptation and new fascination slipped under my skin. I lost a lot of hope after that. I keep falling — but I keep getting up. The longest stand I’ve made since then was twenty-something days. Counting days no longer seems to matter as much.

But I have been growing. The falls, by and large, have not been as low or as frequent, and the recoveries have been sooner and stronger. I need to do better at resisting temptation: when I get low, I am still really vulnerable. But I have been growing, and learning, and coming to realizations.

The real choice at hand is not between chastity and sex, or between love and lust, or even between love and not-love: it’s between love and hate. I of all people am wary of black and white characterizations; but gray so often is a path to compromise. And the two choices are diametrically opposed — not even like two poles; they are not even like each other. When I love someone, I am willing, even joyful, to wait to experience her body, until we can share in each other wholly and licitly. I am glad to give her dignity and honor and respect; to give to her as a person and not just take from her as an object.

For pornography is the opposite: a taking, an exploitation. Sure, in a sense, she is “giving”; but as it involves me, the aspect is completely opposed to the mutual giving and taking, the sharing, that makes a real and loving relationship. When I step out to take from someone else, from a thousand anonymous someone-elses, it is not an act of love for anyone — not even of self-love, since if I really loved myself, I would save myself for what is true. It’s the opposite of love. If I loved those women, I would want to see them clothed in dignity and not degraded and exploited.

Jesus calls me to love all people. And to give in to this sin, the greatest demon in my life, is the utmost failure to love. I love my Lord, and long to be filled up with His love. Lord Jesus, Son of God, please have mercy on me, a sinner.

Chase the nightly shades away

Anthony: What Is the Point of All This? The Devil: There Is No Point! (plate 18)
Anthony: “What Is the Point of All This?
The Devil: “There Is No Point!”

Day 87.

Every night this week, I’ve dreamed I’ve fallen back into porn.

I am still standing, doggedly. Ninety days will be a landmark. But on a daily basis now, I combat thoughts of how “nice” it was, how much easier, how much more “natural,” it was to live in those habits. Seeing a pretty girl — and there are so many — the “natural” impulse is to retreat into a private place with her, through fantasy and masturbation. I consciously crave the false intimacy which, though false, was such a compelling substitute.

My memory of the dreams doesn’t last long, usually. I remember the one from last night, and bits and pieces from others. The one from last night was disturbing because — and this is characteristic of most of them, and of the patterns I was pursuing — it involved the sexualization — no, the pornification — of a real person. Not a real person whom I really, in real life, know, but in the dream she was real. She was a real person whom, in the dream, I liked and was attracted to; but rather than pursuing a real relationship with her, the dream made her into a fantasy, an “unreal” person on the Internet whose pornographic images and content I could download. It reveals what I, with horror, am coming to realize: that this had become the only way I knew to relate to women, in any sexual or romantic sense. It is, at its base, an attitude of exploitation rather than love.

Realizing these things makes me stronger to stand — knowing that, though “easier,” that is not how I want to live. Even in the dreams, I feel shame at having relapsed, and I awake to the relief of still standing. Jesus calls me to love — to love my neighbor as myself. I will walk in the light, as He is in the light — and I pray that His light can flood even the darkness of my dreams. Like a phantom appendage, now amputated, my unconscious brain continues to act out what had become anxious habit and reflex. O Lord, I need Your peace, to lay even that to rest.

The breaking point

breaking pointDay Zero?

I have probably said it before at some time in my life; I’m pretty sure I have, in fact. But I think I’m at the breaking point: at which either I have to change radically, or be utterly destroyed.

It has been a particularly violent week or two of struggle, and it’s growing ever more intense. I’m rising higher, having realizations and revelations, and then falling harder than I’ve ever fallen before. My new Lent has once again been dashed and thrashed against the rocks, again and again and again. Monday, after a particularly intimate Mass on Sunday and a resolute declaration to do better, to pray and fast and stand my ground — I was assaulted by one of the most orchestrated attacks I’ve ever seen. Computers crashing, programs not working properly, telephone ringing off the hook with telemarketers, weather alert radios going off incessantly, followed by fierce storms — my anxiety level through the roof. I fell in the face of it all too easily.

And the force of that fall. I lost all of Monday and all of Tuesday, literally every waking minute devoured by lust. I feel completely out of control. I brought to life another evil doll — my cannibalistic creation that, in pretending to be a girl on the Internet, preys on the longings for intimacy of other lonely men like myself. And it has been the most excruciating episode ever — to know the pain I am inflicting on others and mockery of love I am making.

And tonight I am crying myself to sleep. Not in so many years has the agony been this intense and this raw. Today I downloaded several talks by Matt Fradd and Jason Evert from Catholic Answers on pornography and chastity. And I weep. I heard a quote today, attributed online to Bishop Patrick O’Boyle, that “no one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary. Either he will give up the sin or he will give up the Rosary.” Lord, may this be true. Tonight I most truly offer my tears up to Heaven. I cast all my burdens upon the Lord, and offer my breaking heart to Him.

Our Lady of Purity, please pray for me. Saint Joseph, Protector of Virgins, please pray for me. Saint Agnes, my patroness, please pray for me.