Luke Gilkerson is the general editor and primary author of Breaking Free. He serves as the Internet Community Manager at Covenant Eyes. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Bowling Green State University and is working on an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Before working at Covenant Eyes he spent six years as a campus minister. He understands firsthand the struggles and temptations someone faces when surfing the Internet, and he seeks to give people practical and spiritual resources to fight these temptations. Luke’s favorite activities include blogging, reading theology books, starting random philosophical discussions, dating his wife Trisha, and playing with his two sons.
What was your life like before you realized that you had porn addiction?
I would probably not have labeled my problem an “addiction” in the beginning, but I knew very early on that I was losing control. It was shocking what lengths I would go to to get my “fix” and to keep it a secret.
Other than a few glimpses at calendar girls in my teen years, I didn’t see pornography until I was in college. I was working at a video rental store which gave me free and unlimited access (not to mention unaccountable access) to anything I wanted to see. This was the beginning of a downward slope for me. I quickly went from videos to the Internet which opened up a whole world of variety and novelty.
At the time I was single and was able to keep my obsession a secret from my friends. Those who did know about my temptations only knew part of the story, so I was able to keep people’s concerns at bay.
Had I been completely honest with myself, I believe I would have been able to see compulsion stemming from a number of issues that I had buried deep within my heart. (1) I was incredibly lonely, but I didn’t know how to really pursue a wholesome relationship with a woman and be really committed. The pornography was my easy escape, a quick fix for me to feel like a man without requiring myself to be one. (2) I was also incredibly angry at God for not giving me the things I wanted in life, specifically a wife. Looking at pornography was my way of saying, “Okay God, you’re not going to give me what I want. I’ll just take it however I can get it.”
In short, my natural drive for love and affection had turned so dangerously inward and had become so warped, looking at porn was no longer just a matter of curiosity or a desire for intimacy. It had become the center of my universe and nothing was going to stand in the way of me getting the satisfaction I wanted. I did all of this, unfortunately, while carrying on a very positive Christian image to others.
Looking back I believe God was exposing these deeper issues within me, and it took something like pornography addiction to really get my attention and show me just how warped my desire for love had become.
What happened next and how is your life now?
The story of my exodus out own porn addiction is a long and detailed one, but there were some major milestones I believe are worth mentioning.
First, having the help of wise and godly mentors was key for me. There is an old proverb that says, “The purposes of a man’s heart is like a deep ocean, but the man of understanding will draw it out.” I certainly knew the first half of the proverb very well. My heart was like a deep ocean, full of hidden motives and drives I was unable or unwilling to see. But at key moments, I believe by God’s sovereign design, wise people came along and drew out of me those hidden sins and pains. I had been spending so much time trying to chop bad fruit off a bad tree. They helped me to get to the root and see that the whole tree needed to change.
One example of this was a older guy at my church who took me out to breakfast one day. With an almost prophetic insight, he seemed to know what I was struggling with. I confessed my sin to him right there at the breakfast table over my Eggs Benedict. Later on, at his house, he offered to pray for me and I asked him, rather bluntly, “I’ve had a lot of people pray for me about this. What will make this prayer any different?” He looked back at me, and with a firm resolve he said, “What makes this different is I’m not going to leave you.”
And he didn’t. He continued to meet with me every week and helped me to get the root of my addiction.
A second major help to me was meeting the woman who would become my wife. It is hard to explain, but falling in love did something to me I never expected. I saw how my lust was damaging my ability to love another person. I saw the damage it could do to my future marriage. It also helped to see that she, unlike other women I had dated before, was not going to put up with my games and lack of commitment. It really was a kick in the butt.
As I began to pursue that relationship, I found my thirst for pornography lessened over time. I was throwing my energy into a relationship with a real live human being and it changed something in me. Of course, I don’t think that change would have happened if I hadn’t already been doing the hard work and soul searching.
Since then I can say the struggle isn’t totally gone. While I haven’t looked a porn in a very long time, I know the root issues are still present in me. I still have that drive to pervert love into a selfish enterprise. I still have that drive to make everything all about me and my needs. I still have that drive to make myself into an idol. I still, at times, have that anger at God that makes me want to rebel. But I am thankful about how much more aware I am of these things. God is the one who has made me aware.
Tools that worked for you
For me, accountability relationships were key. By “accountability” I don’t simply mean getting together with others to bare my soul and get honest about my problems. Of course that was a major part of it. By “accountability” I mean a willingness to let someone see the real me: all of selfishness and self-centeredness, all of my doubts and fears. Doing this let me fight the battle on a new front. I was able to get to the core of why I was so messed up.
Today I work for Covenant Eyes helping guys are a lot like me. We offer an Internet accountability service that helps people to be honest upfront with others about where they’ve been online and what they’ve looked at. This not only serves as a deterrent, but it allows people to know about the temptations you’ve faced and the choices you’ve made. In this way, the service isn’t just a technological quick fix: it’s a relational solution. The regularly e-mailed Internet accountability reports also serve a great reminder for accountability partners to talk.