Fight the New Drug

Fight the New Drug Video: My porn recovery story

***To see my featured talk "How Love Defeats Porn" given at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. click here. ***

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How to avoid the temptation of pornography, part one: Guard your eyes

No one's getting hurt:
One in four marriages split up because of pornography.
[For a more complete article on how I got over the addiction and more practical steps, see Why we struggle with porn and steps to overcome it.]

After writing a post called Sexual Freedom, which was my beginning attempt to answer some questions on some hot sexual topics, I received a number of public and private replies that gave me the encouragement to write this post: How to avoid the temptation of pornography.

I will not spend time trying to convince anyone not to watch porn, but I will share this:  56% of divorces note that a spouse's watching of pornography was a major reason for divorce.  Considering that generally half of all marriages end in divorce, this means that one in four marriages end because a partner’s addiction to pornography.

It's an understatement to say that this a big deal.  For the guys (and women) out there who think their porn addiction will go away when they’re married because “they’ll be having sex all the time”, I’ve witnessed and read countless testimonies of married men who say this simply isn’t true (both that marriage will relieve your addiction and that you will have sex all the time).  Marriage doesn’t change things.  The only thing we can do is advice given by a married man himself about this issue in one of my favorite talks I’ve heard.  He told us guys that before we get married, we need to  “Get our shit together.” 

After years of struggling with the temptation of pornography, I can say for the past year I no longer have an addiction.  I'm not saying I'm above the temptation and that I've never fallen since, but I am saying that I have broken the habit that used to be weekly, even daily at times.  To be more specific, if I was counting (and I don't) I could maybe count on two hands the amount of days I've visited a site in the past year.

And one thing lead to another...
How did I get over it?  Well, like any addiction, I had to admit I had an issue and wasn't happy with the habit.  Then in past years I've had used a combination of accountability, Web site blockers, and prayer.  For now though, I want to mention a secret that's helped me greatly I feel hasn't been talked about yet.

In Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, the authors talk about how the battle of temptation begins at the forefront, and it’s this: we must guard our eyes.  We guys are such visual beings.  We get riled up by seeing the boobs and butts that pass us live each day.  Add what we see in TV shows, commercials, movies, and the Internet, it’s no surprise by the end of the day or a week we feel like we have to do something about what we see.

Great first read to win the battle.
The longer we stare leads to the longer we play out a fantasy in our head which leads to eventually acting upon that fantasy.

Guard our eyes.  What does that mean?  Well, we can’t help the first glance when a woman walks in front of us and in our line of view are her tight pants.  But we can control is the second glance at that same woman, or how long we let that first glance be.  Every Man’s Battle calls it “bouncing the eyes.”  We literally have to bounce our eyes after that first glance, bounce them as quickly as we can to something else.

Prime example, I frequently take the Metro train in Washington, D.C., meaning I walk up a lot of escalators.  Women’s buttocks are at my eye level every day when they’re walking in front of me.  It’s not her fault nor mine that this happens.  Because I know what looking at a girl’s butt does to me, I literally look down on the steps every time I’m on an escalator.  I can’t help the first glance, but I can help the second and how long I look.  I bounce my eyes.  I’ve been practicing this for years and it has helped tremendously.

Many readers, especially women, may think, “Wow, this guy Matt is pathetic.”  I don’t think so because I believe that if we can’t win the little battles, how do we expect to win the bigger ones where it matters more?  This goes for any addiction like binge drinking, over eating, or smoking.  It begins small, doesn’t it?  As for porn, I know how guys think.  I call it the slippery slope.  Let’s say we stare at something as harmless as an NFL cheerleader on TV bending over.  All of a sudden, we’re more intrigued to later look up photos of cheerleaders online, also harmless, right? Look at enough photos, we’re probably ready to move on to watch a video of a cheerleader, playing out a fantasy in our head, and so forth.  Replace cheerleader with anything else---model, actress, whatever, it’s the same slippery slope of “harmless” acts which lead us to somewhere that maybe we didn’t want to go.  Give a mouse a cookie, and he won’t rest on just cookies.
That cookie won't be enough...

My point is that wouldn’t it all be easier if we avoided that first stare, that second glance?  For me, it’s so much easier to resist the small temptation the first time than try to resist the temptation while I’m already online.

I bounce my eyes on TV, magazine racks, even Facebook.  I can’t help that a lot of girls put up close-up photos of them in bathing suits online.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a difference of them posing with their friends, but I’ve noticed many girls like to post close-up shots of just them in their tops.  What are guys suppose to look at?  With these shots, I often hide their history on the News Feed so I don’t have to look at them again.  It’s not their fault nor mine that they show up, but I can control how long I look or if I look a second time.

If you’re serious about stopping your pornography addiction, concentrating on the act is one way to go about it, but I tell you after years of struggling with this, taking the proactive approach of guarding my eyes, bouncing my eyes, which relieves me from the desire in the first place, has been so much easier and effective in avoiding the sites than trying to convince myself after a day or two of checking out butts and boobs that I’m not going to want to look at something more online.

I’ll rest on this point.  There’s more to talk about, like other reasons we look at it (stress, boredom, curiosity), and how we can address those things.  Also, I’ll touch on that the biggest sin of man isn’t chastity, but pride, and how that plays into this topic.  Finally, I’ll get to the topic of getting up when we fall, how we need to be patient and gentle with ourselves. 

Meanwhile, try the guarding and bouncing our eyes activity.  Let me know how that works out.  If anyone does it, and it doesn’t help, I owe you a burger and some fries.  Remember the first stat at the beginning.  One in four.  Do we want to become a statistic?  Let's together, erase it.



  1. First of all, I would like to thank you for having the courage to speak about your personal experience on this very personal and potentially humiliating subject and sharing it with the world.

    I admire you for swallowing your pride to share with your fellow men your personal struggle about something we all men struggle with at least once in our lives (actually way more than once, but you get the point). In other words, you know you are not alone on this. You are just one of the few (if not only) guys who have the guts to admit it and tell it as it is.

    That being said, I'd like to give you my take on the matter. I agree with you about fighting the small battles and guarding our eyes as an effective tool against this type of sin, but I would say this is just the first step. This is not enough and not the right way of solving this in the long term.

    The only effective weapon against sexual sin is prayer... LOTS of prayer. Sure, you can combine it with your recommendations, but make prayer the primary focus and do it at least daily, but especially every time you need it (like right after the first stare while you are struggling not to stare back or stare for too long).

    The other aspect of this is that once you get in the habit of prayer, it will start to transform you. You will start to notice that as time goes by you won't need to think about not staring anymore or having to guard your eyes so zealously.

    Once you stop seeing women as objects (sexual objects) fending temptation is easier because you'll be less tempted at least under normal circumstances (e.g. seeing pretty girls in the street). Nonetheless if you expose yourself to the wrong images (e.g. porn, strip clubs) you will be "tempting" temptation and that would be playing with fire.

    In other words, once you start valuing women as persons and not merely as objects, you literally see them differently. At that point you could see a naked women and appreciate the beauty of her body as an attribute of her whole self instead of fixiating on its sexual values disregarding the dignity of the woman as a person.

    Nonetheless, we are flawed (fallen) creatures and temptation will never truly go away. We still run the risk of objectifying women if we are not careful, so we have to keep guarding our eyes as much as we can. Since it is impractical to shut our eyes to all the sexual images we are bombarded daily (especially in this current society), we need to pray so we just need to focus on avoiding the most overt of these images.

    For a very real, practical and useful approach to pray for abstinence and chastity, consider joining the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. Trust me, it is really powerful and effective.

  2. Wow. Dude, Matt - so pissed right now. I just got done writing a pretty lengthy reply to this post and no joke, I talk about how I'm once again thankful that you bring this topic up because I feel like the devil would have us internalize this and keep these struggles to ourselves instead of bringing them to the surface and discussing them amongst others - and then when I clicked published I got some blogspot server error. So, instead of quitting I decided not to allow the devil to have that victory and here I am typing it out again. Go to hell Satan. And if it wasn't you trying to thwart my post, then damn you blogspot.

    Either way, I'm thankful topics like these are bringing brought up. I believe that the devil would have us think that we're alone in these struggles and by seeing the replies to these posts, it's pretty obvious we're not. Also, thanks for the bouncing eyes reminder. Sometimes it's the little things that end up going a long way - especially when those little things have the tend towards forming us into more virtuous men and women.

    Also, Andre thank you for the reminder about the transformative power of prayer.

    Saint Joseph. Saint Michael. Pray for us.

  3. Andre and Chris, it's your type of encouragement, especially coming from other guys, that keeps me going.

    Andre, you bring up a lot of great points that I definitely agree with. This was only Part One, I know it takes more than just the bouncing eyes, but it's a start and I need to break things up by topic, otherwise I could write a whole book about this because there's a lot to address.

    Chris, way to persevere. And thank you for your affirmation. You've been pretty consistent with it and I will continue to need it as I feel like vomiting sometimes that I just shared so much to the world lol.

    Looking forward to the move in.

    Iron sharpens iron.


  4. Hey, Matt. As a fellow CUA guy, I really appreciate your honesty. I struggle with this daily, and continue to fail despite trying to commit to to better chastity (if that makes any sense?) for Lent.

    As someone who has a room to himself and loads of time at night, what might you recommend to keep myself occupied during this downtime?

    1. To fellow CUA guy,

      I feel you man. Advice I got from Capuchin friar Fr. Bill: Do something you love, like music or a hobby. For me ith was guitar. Or get involved with a group on campus.

      Fr. Bob (the old chaplain), his advice: exercise. Go for a run. Go to the gym. Get jacked haha.

      If it's real late, maybe make it a time with God. Leave your room and visit Him in the 24-hour-chapel by St. Vinny's. Ask your RA or RM for the code if you don't know it. If you can break in to Caldwell (and there are ways to do that...) you can go to the chapel, turn on the Mary light and be with her.

      I've done all three of these things one way or the other. You're right though in that the best way to go about it is to avoid the near occasion (i.e. your computer by yourself) and just do something postive instead. Don't get bogged down on trying to create a routine, just do one of these things once and go from there.

      Feel free to e-mail me at if you want to talk about it more. Thanks for reaching out!


    2. I wonder if it's the same Capuchin Fr. Bill I know? Gotta love the Caps! Thanks for being honest about this struggle. As women, we can better support our brothas if we hear the truth. It's hard for a lot of us to understand how our actions, dress, or mere appearance can tempt, so thanks for this view into the mind of a man. Men, know that your sisters are praying for you!

    3. Great reflection, thank you. And yes, it probably is the same Fr. Bill Graham, the human form of Yoda.

      Thanks for thinking of us guys, as we want to be better men for y'all!

    4. Nope, not the same Fr. Bill. Although the one I know is also very Yodaish in various ways, lol.

  5. Hey Matt!

    Great post - props for your fearlessness in sharing your story. Just wanted to bring up that, although guys are definitely more visual, porn is not just a guys' struggle. Girls - myself included - struggle with it as well.

    Keep up the awesome-ness. (and send some prayers my way, if you could!)


    1. Hi!

      Well, I appreciate your fearlessness to even say something on here! I think that's a big deal. I will send an prayer for you and all women out there who may struggle, including right now, to the only perfect woman I know:

      Hail Mary, full of grace...


  6. Hey Matt,

    I know that your time is jam packed, and you don't have much a chance to write anymore, but here's just a friendly reminder that people hope to see and are waiting for the next parts on this topic.

    Pray for me!

    Your Brother in Christ.

    1. Whoever this is, I appreciate it. It's that kind of encouragement I need.

      I really haven't had time these past several weeks, but I hope to come back to writing this week.

      Thanks again,