Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus

When the chips were down


When I started this blog, I wondered if there was ever a time when I would get around to discussing this, and this might as well be the moment. If you’re wondering why there’s a picture of a bunch of poker chips that I’ve written on here, it will become evident in a bit.


Here goes….

I have suffered from a pornography addiction for my entire adult life.

It’s a good thing that blogs don’t operate in real-time, because you would have waited about 45 minutes for me to type that sentence.

I don’t really want to go into details right now, except to say that at the end of May, I relapsed. I lost trust, I harmed my family yet again, and I wondered when I would really be serious about keeping my life safeguarded.

I had a filter. That was some of the problem, but not all of it. (By the way, XXXChurch is a terrible filtering program that can be dodged by incognito windows at every turn. I should have known when their celebrity pastor argued with me on Twitter about the supposed merits of Dexter that they aren’t really serious about porn – just substituting sexual pornography with violence pornography).

A lot of the problem was leaving God out of the discussion. When you try to behave in your own strength, you eventually break down.

But really, the problem was that I lost sight of the streak. When you have a streak and God gives you victory day by day, having that streak and knowing how long it is tells you what you’re throwing away on the days where you are weak.

Or tired.

Or angry.

Or frustrated.

Or bitter.

I knew that my streak was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 years. The day after this happened, I heard a story about the sobriety coins that people in AA use to remember how long they’ve stayed clean. Now, I don’t really get into the whole “To thine own self be true” thing, because that sounds pretty selfish and not relying on God’s strength, but I did like the idea of marking time, because it’s a physical reminder that I can always carry with me of what I would give up in a relapse.

I see them every day when I put them in my pockets and when I take them out, and even sometimes when I want to give up the fight already.

I hate the Message translation overall for its inaccuracy, but a verse that I highlighted long ago when I started to deal with this issue has an interesting take: “Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile.”—Matthew 5:29 (MSG)

In the meantime, my wife has probably wondered why she is finding poker chips in the laundry with weird dates written on them. Strangers might hear them in my pockets as I walk and wonder if I just came from the riverboat with souvenirs.

The possible embarrassment doesn’t bother me, because on May 30th, I celebrated 24 hours.

On June 5th, I celebrated a week.

On June 12th, I celebrated 2 weeks.

Last Tuesday, I celebrated a month.

It’s a long road, and it’s marked a step at a time, and a day at a time, but this recovery seems different. This recovery has more hope, because when the chips were down, God lifted me up again.


6 thoughts on “When the chips were down

  1. Thank you for being brave & sharing your story. Congratulations on 1 month; that’s huge!

  2. Fighting the battle with you, brother. Keep up the good fight! I’m learning the same things as you are that I can’t do it on my own and in my own strength. I have to be dependent on God. I have to break the curse for my sons. Currently celebrating five days!

    • I appreciate those kind words, Bobby. If I can ever be of help or encouragement, let me know. There are many of us out there struggling in silence – I waited years to write what I wrote today.

  3. Russ, I have been there. In fact, as a teen I was not only allowed, but encouraged, to view porn. I had my own subscription to Playboy around age 10, and inherited other magazines from cousins and from my mother’s boyfriend. For 18th birthday, my mom took me to the video store, and rented videos for me…

    Porn is something I’ve spent the ensuing years trying to get unentangled from. It, as you alluded to above, returned in times of duress, stress, confusion.

    For me, I think the biggest thing wasn’t just eliminating it from my life, because an empty house–swept, and in order–is begging to be filled, but rather replacing that negative (that sin) with a positive. I started reading more books (again), and working out. Somewhere along the way new habits were formed, and the desire to view porn is gone. Beyond that, I was honest with friends and family, and instituted accountability.

    Congrats on your two months of sobriety. You can stay clean. You are in my prayers.

    • Yeah, a lot of my problems started when I was young too. My dad was a widower, and when my mom died while I was in high school, all hell broke loose (literally). I think she was the filter for the house.

      When my wife and I cleaned out my apartment before we got married, she convinced me that I needed to throw it all out. I took a lot of crap from my friends at the time over that, but those “friends” haven’t been around for 10 years or more, so not sure their opinion mattered.

      Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be said for what comes in via the internet except either you unplug it or you put some heavy barriers on it. I’ve recently gotten Accountable2You, which I’ve had a lot of good experiences with so far. Sometimes it nags my wife with texts on funny things that you wouldn’t expect it to nag about, but I would rather it nag than stay silent.

      I appreciate the prayers, and I’m sorry that you had to suffer the way you did. Unfortunately, I think we grew up in a time where male role models thought they were doing us a favor by giving us access without realizing what it would do to our relationships in the future. Cell phones make it even worse now, for both those who are recording the content as well as those who are consuming it. I suppose technology has made it easier to access and hide using it with each passing generation.

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