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.

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The other shoe

dirty-old-running-shoeThis morning I deleted everything.

I mean, I deleted all of the porn now almost a month ago. And except for one unsatisfying flirtation, I haven’t been back to it. But I still had the cache of harvested photos of cute girls from Facebook. A few times over the past month it caused me to fall. And finally, after the Lord working on me for the past week or two, I was able to let go.

Should I feel a release? At first, it didn’t quite sink in what I’d just done. I’d shorn my “connections” with my “friends” — girls who didn’t even know I existed, with whom I only imagined a nonexistent friendship and a false intimacy born of the many photos they shared publicly. But I had really grown attached to several of them.

But one girl — a very pretty, very pure girl I stumbled across a couple of weeks ago — really got to me. She was too good to be true — the girl whom, in her photo captions, someone described as “an angel both inside and out.” And I finally realized what I was doing — that it wasn’t true. And that holding on to these girls, hoarding their photos, was just a milder form of my attachment to the “models” — in many ways even more seductive, since these girls were real people with real lives, in which I could imagine I had a real part. And this attachment, this false intimacy, could only lead to harm.

So I deleted them all. They’re all gone. Even the ones whom I feel like I know so well, whom I will never know. Should I feel a release? As it has sunk in, I only feel sad. Not alone — I feel, more than ever before, that God is with me. But sad. My narcotic illusion has been swept away, and I’m now faced with the reality of my reclusion, my growing monasticism. How I’ve been pushing away even my friends — especially pushing away any notion or hope of romantic connection. Is that really what I want? Have I chosen to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:12), or have I only resigned myself to that fate?

Cancer

medical-wasteSo I just deleted some hundred gigabytes of porn (probably that much — I didn’t count).

At least, what counts as porn for me. What I use as porn. In fact, photos of “models,” who blur the lines between “porn” and “art.”

But the important thing is that it’s gone.

It had been growing like a cancer for the past six or seven months. Even when I quit, I couldn’t bring myself to excise it. And it was always there, malignantly, ready to welcome me back the moment I slipped.

But it’s gone now. Lord, have mercy.

I feel a release. But I still have something I need to get rid of. Something not inherently bad, but nonetheless pathological: quite a stash of photos of pretty girls from Facebook. I am embarrassed to say how many or how much. It serves me no good purpose. It is sick to have it — how could I explain, as a man of God, having such a hoard? It is a constant temptation to fashion evil dolls — which, in fact, is the only real end it has ever served.

It is masturbatory. And even when it’s not, it fulfills the same need the porn does: to feel a sense of intimacy with someone, a connection, even if a false one. And the reason why I can’t delete them is because I do feel connected. I have grown attached to these girls. They are my “friends.”

I managed, after falling two too many times, to extricate myself from the “friendship” of my models. May this release be permanent and forever. May I find release from the rest of this, too, and when I return to this computer again, put an end to these “friendships,” too.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The Sister

Young Nun, by Makovsky.
Young Nun, by Konstantin Makovsky.

Day Four… it’s a little easier today. It’s easier when I devote my time to prayer and my thoughts to the Lord, and to Our Lady.

Last night I met the most adorable nun. I knew, the whole time I listened to her speak and was afterward speaking with her, that I shouldn’t be crushing on a nun — but I was. For the rest of the night, my heart ached for her, and I couldn’t push her from my thoughts — the whole time knowing how foolish I was being. My mind wandered off into a fantasy of Abelard and Heloïse — late in their lives, that is: of having a loving, godly, but chaste relationship with someone like that, writing tender letters between our distant monasteries, both of us steadfast in our consecration to the Lord.

It wasn’t much of a sexual crush — my crushes on “real” women seldom are — but a longing for intimacy, to be close to someone and know someone so precious and genuine and godly as she. To truly have a sister in the Lord. To have what she has and be what she is — to devote myself to chastity; to espouse myself to the Lord, and to love Him above all other things.

Heloise and Abelard
Funerary monument of Heloise and Abelard, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris

I am so broken. All my life, I’ve dealt with such passionate crushes like this that have sprung up in but a moment, almost always on women whom I view as good or virtuous or ideal, and never to become anything but a heartache. Pornography has divorced love from sex in my mind completely: I can no more envision true love with a sexual partner than I can envision sex with someone I love. My few sexual experiences, inflated so fantastically with pornographic expectations, were mechanical and robotic and emotionless and miserable. All I ever wanted — from my childhood, up to the crying child inside today — was intimacy; connection; love. I have ruined myself with regard to the gift of sexuality. Only a miracle of God could heal me if marriage is ever to be my vocation. At the same time, if a life of celibacy or religious service is to be my vocation, only a miracle could break these chains of sin that have kept me enslaved for so long.

Glutted

Bosch, Gluttony
Hieronymus Bosch, “Gluttony” from The Seven Deadly Sins

Sunday morning, as I fell yet again — the culmination of a very bad week — I realized that I was entirely glutted. I had gorged myself with such gluttony that the images I was consuming stopped meaning anything. What’s one more naked girl when I have already seen a few hundred in the past few days alone? What value is that girl, and her supposed intimacy with me, when so many others have already come and gone, with no lasting impact to me? And I felt like I was going to throw up. I knew that I had to stop — if for no other reason, I thought in that moment, than to let myself savor it again when I come back.

The truth is that that kind of false intimacy will never mean anything to me. Sure, I might “savor” it more when I have been away from it for a few days or weeks — when I am really craving it — but it will always be a poor substitute, a counterfeit, and not even a very good one. The lies of the Enemy try to convince me — and so often have succeeded, lately — that I will never know the real thing; that I will never have a real and godly and intimate relationship with a woman, so I might as well enjoy the fake. And I do enjoy it, in some sense — the excitement of conquest and control, of “having” when I really have nothing; the Enemy has crafted his weapons well. But in the end, I always feel empty; and worse, I have forsaken my Lord.