Author and speaker Jonathan Daugherty discusses his former sex addiction and his path to recovery, offering encouragement and hope to men struggling with similar issues. (Part 1 of 2)
John Fuller: Today on “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, we’re going to examine the dangers of having a secret life, where what some consider to be harmless entertainment and fantasy collide with living a life of purity and living to honor God. And here’s how one man described the struggle and his experience.
Man: So, I was comin’ out of my apartment with some trash to the dumpster and when I got there, there were some magazines at the bottom. So, I kinda balanced myself on the side so I could reach in and grab one and of course, I fell right inside. And suddenly, it was like when I was a kid. I ... my palms were sweating; my heart was racing and I was out of control. I was looking at garbage, sitting in garbage and I realized, I gotta get out of there as quickly as I could. But (Sigh) man, I can’t get those images out of my mind.
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Jim Daly: John, we’re obviously gonna be addressing a heavy topic today and I want to encourage parents to direct the attention of young children elsewhere for the next half hour. And for those that would want to write or send an e-mail about the fact that we’re gonna cover a topic like pornography and sexuality, I get it. I’ll save you the time, in the Christian community, we need to give our children and ourselves a healthy perspective on God’s design for human sexuality. I’m kinda tired of letting the world trample over what God has put in front of us kind of as His wedding present to us.
And I get it. I understand it, but I’m tellin’ you folks, pray for this moment, because when we talk about it, people will be touched and we will literally have hundreds if not thousands of people call us who are hurting. And that’s the goal for us today, is to speak to each one of you about this place which might be a hidden place in your heart that you’re not exposing to others. And let’s get down and deal with this so that we can honor our Lord and Savior.
John: Yeah, Jim, pornography is so prevalent. It’s so everywhere in the culture today, and men and boys struggle. Girls and many women struggle, as well. The numbers are tragic but it seems that a lot of folks would just say, “Oh, whatever.” It’s just you and the computer and you and the movie or whatever it is. They kind of dismiss the grab, the hold that pornography can have on a heart and a life.
Jim: Well, and let’s put some perspective on it, because research shows that almost one out of every 5 young adult women are viewing pornography and using pornography at least once a week. And for young men, that number is 7 out of 10. That should make everybody’s jaw drop and those are the numbers you’re referring to, John and we are going to discuss that today.
The brain science points to a correlation between pornography and addictive drugs. When you think about it, that’s how the brain chemistry is responding. Even though you know better and you’re desperate to stop it, there’s the compulsion there and it’s drawing you deeper and deeper.
Certainly that was the case for our guest today, Jonathan Daugherty, who grew up in a Christian home. He gave his heart to the Lord as a young boy and was active at church and I’m sure, doing all the outward things properly and being rewarded and getting the “atta boys” for that. But he was also hiding a deadly, spiritually deadly secret, a secret that almost destroyed him, almost destroyed his marriage and it will be an amazing discussion with him today. Jonathan, let me welcome you to “Focus on the Family.”
Mr. Jonathan Daugherty: Thanks so much. I’m glad to be with you.
Jim: You know, let me say this from the beginning. It’s hard. I can’t imagine being so vulnerable in saying this was my core struggle and this is what the Lord dealt with me about getting in front of a microphone, in front of an audience to speak. Why do you do it? What compels you to address this topic when, I think, most rational people would say, “Thank You, Lord for getting me out of that. Now I never want to talk about it again?”
Jonathan: Well, when I tell my story, one of the things that I like to say is, when I got to the point where I moved into what we call “vocational ministry,” doing this as a vocation, I didn’t want to initially. You know, we hear in the Christian community a lot of times people called into ministry, right? And I think those of us who are Christians understand that to mean that God starts prompting us in ways. He starts orchestrating things in our circumstances. He starts narrowing our focus. And when He started doing that in my life in 2002, I didn’t want to go in the direction He was wanting me to go, because His prompting, His call on my life was three words, “Tell your story.”
Jonathan: And I thought, but I know my story. I like the stuff that’s happened post recovery, but I don’t necessarily want to tell all this stuff pre-recovery. So part of it was just understanding that God kept moving me in this direction.
Jim: Well, and I applaud you for going there because again, this is something that, as I said in the open, oftentimes we get criticism here, John, because we talk about this from time to time. And even that light touch in that regard, you know, we’ll receive criticism as to why we’re covering this topic.
Jim: It’s a painful one for many people. Before we get into your story, I just want to reinforce those numbers for those that might be just joining us right now. Seven in 10 young men say that they’re basically addicted to pornography, that you know, this is something that they do at least once a week. And one out of five young women say that that’s the situation they’re in. Is that accurate?
Jonathan: Well, I might not be the person to ask that in terms of a scientific standpoint, ‘cause you know, there’s probably people out in the audience that are saying, “Well, you know, 9 out of 10 statistics are made up,” you know, something like that. (Laughter) But the reality is I think anecdotally even, we can look around in our culture, not only just in the culture at large, we can look around in our churches and what we found in our ministry is, we start to hear these stories, it really supports those statistics. And we start realizing whatever the numbers are in actuality, what the effect is culturally and even within the church is being felt.
Jim: Well, and Jonathan, what that says to me and let me turn to the listener, that means many of you are in this spot and I don’t want to be that direct, but I need to be. We need to talk very openly about this so the Lord can do the work He needs to do in us. It starts with honesty, doesn’t it?
Jonathan: Yeah and one of the things that we think is so important and there’s not enough environments in which this can happen is people need to be in a place where they can tell their story, ‘cause there’s so much shame and secrecy and kind of darkness and even depression that’s associated with people who continue to go down the path of pornography, that just to even have a place where they feel like, could I tell that to someone else? Could I actually share that with someone? I think it’s on us to be the ones to say, yes, there are safe environments where you can tell your story. And we can talk a little bit about that later.
Jim: Well, we will and we’re gonna get to that, which to me [is] the punch line of the whole thing and how God worked in your life and that relief that you found eventually. But we need to start at the beginning.
Jim: So, where were you? What was the circumstance you were in when you were first introduced to pornography? What happened?
Jonathan: Well, I can only describe it as a traumatic event in my life. I was not expecting to see pornography. I don’t think any kid necessarily expects to see pornography.
Jim: How old were you?
Jonathan: I was 12-years-old and so I think it’s always a shocking experience. I’d spent the night at a friend’s house. We got up the next day. We’re playin’ out in the woods behind his house and he just says to me, “Hey, I wanted to show you somethin’.” Well, I’m a kid from Central Texas and it’s in the summertime and so, as we’re walkin’ out in this field, that he’s bookin’ towards this tree stump, I’m thinking, well, we’re gonna see a carcass, right? There’s gonna be something dead.
Jim: Yeah, right. (Laughing)
Jonathan: That’s what’s going through my 12-year-old mind. Ironically, I did end up seeing something dead. I ended up seeing something that started to produce death in my life, because he pulls this magazine out of this tree stump and I’m still clueless. He opens this magazine and it’s pornography and it’s like you’ve seen those movie scenes sometimes where all of a sudden everything gets blurry and stuff starts spinning and you hear weird music. That’s kinda how it felt for me in that moment, ‘cause it just hit me in my gut. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I was looking at. I didn’t know how to process that moment.
Jim: Did it create a conflict for you, also spiritually, because you’re coming from a Christian home and you understand this is not appropriate and all that conflict at that moment?
Jonathan: Yeah, I don’t know how much I understood at that moment about what was appropriate or not, because I had no clue about sex or anything.
Jim: So, you hadn’t had the talk yet or any of that.
Jonathan: But no, but here’s what did happen and this is where it kinda confirmed to me thatI think intuitively we are all, since we are made in the image of God, we all bear a conscience. So whether or not we can explain something that might be outside of God’s design, we can still sense it. And so, even as a 12-year-old kid, as soon as that magazine opened, I felt this wave that I can only describe as kind of a mixture of guilt and fear come over me, I mean, like somebody punched me in the stomach, as if I needed to look over my shoulder, like something’s not right about this.
Jim: So, you felt, it really reached out and grabbed you.
Jonathan: Oh, yeah.
Jim: When you saw it, it got ya.
Jonathan: It was powerful in two ways, not only that kind of punch like guilt and fear, but it was powerful because I also felt like something woke up inside of me. Certainly I would discover that it’s sexuality. I mean, we’re made to respond in certain ways to images and things and it just overwhelmed me on every level. And so, that’s kind of where the secret started was in that field.
Jim: Yeah and you’ve written this book, Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity and Second Chances. And let’s, I guess, uncover the secret of part of this. Why did it become a secret and what was secretive? You just lived in a quiet place. You never exposed this to anybody and what was the activity like as you continued through 13-, 14-, 15-years-old?
Jonathan: Yeah, great question and the original reason for the secret and I think it’s the original reason that a lot of kids have for hiding this stuff is not because they go into it thinking, “Hey, I want to keep a secret.” They keep the secret because they don’t know where to share it. Where does a 12-year-old kid in even a Christian home sometimes, feel safe enough to initiate that conversation with his parents?
Here I was. I mean, I had good godly parents. There was no abuse or anything, you know, out of the ordinary. I mean, I had a great childhood growin’ up. But imagine [a] 12-year-old kid, now introduced information he has no ability to process, even in the best of homes is that necessarily a conversation that a 12-year-old kid’ll [take the] responsibility to initiate?
I had no idea where to take this and so, then when you talk about 13-, 14-, 15, as I started kinda adding into this my own pursuit and discovery of pornography and other activities, it became a place that I could escape to and it was more intentional in my secrecy. So, originally it was just more like a path of least resistance. I don’t know what to do with this. What does a scared kid do? He hides. Later on when I started pursuing it, then it was like, well, I don’t really want anybody to know about this. So, it was more active secrecy later on.
Jim: But also shame I would think.
Jim: Sure and we want to get to that. Unfortunately, we’ll get to the worst part of that and how it impacted in your 20s.But in this stage, how did that addiction or how did that desire for pornography, how did it keep you from authentic relationship? Can you look back now and say, it was preventing me in developing in some healthy ways? And what would that look like?
Jonathan: Uh-hm. it’s interesting, because when I started my recovery later on in my life, looking back to 12-years-old and kind of the progression of the pornography and all that. I realized that I had essentially stopped growing emotionally at 12-years-old. It’s almost like it created this divergent path. It took me down this area where I was starting to spend emotional energy attaching to pornography which was preventing me from learning really how you attach in a healthy way to your parents and to your siblings and to your friends.
Jonathan: Now none of this is conscious in a 14-year-old’s mind, but that’s exactly what was happening. And I think where it really manifests is I became an expert liar. And there’s no way to build a healthy relationship if you’re always lying to people.
Jim: So, it kinda honed a negative skill.
Jonathan: It did and I think underneath the lying was this paralyzing fear. What if my parents found out? What if my pastor found out? What if, what if, what if? You know, you go down this “what if” path and nothing in the “what if” path ends well. You know, the more you ask what if, it always ends poorly.
Jim: How were you in your relationship with the Lord at this time? I mean, you’re coming from a Christian home. You’re going to church on Sunday I would assume.
Jim: And you’re going to Sunday school and you’re hearing things and you’re hearing about purity, especially at 13, 14, 15. You know, I’m sure your parents were interested in where are you at? Are you noticing girls? Those are common discussions I have with my teen boys.
Jonathan: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: And how were you managing that environment and knowing more about what God expected of you at that time?
Jonathan: I think it was a big conflict and the reason I say that is, it felt very much like a roller coaster, because I was desiring to grow deeper in my relationship with God, but I was paralyzed in knowing how to process and handle this whole budding secret that’s going on. And so, I felt very conflicted. In fact, when I describe it, I call it [that] I became a “divided person.”
Jonathan: So, I kinda had this core element of myself that was starting to get more encased in shame and secrecy and sin and then I had what I called “an image” that I would project, based on the context I was in. Well, I had my school image. I had my church image. And what I did was, I learned how to read people and figure out what do they want? Okay and I’ll just be that.
So, I kinda became this chameleon and that really prevented me from, I think understanding not only authentic relationships with other people, but even growing in an authentic relationship with God, because I would pretend in my closet by myself with God that we’re building this really close relationship, while I’m lying to everybody else out around me. And God’s Word even says that doesn’t jive. You’re not actually building this deep intimate relationship with Me is you think you’re gonna lie to everybody else.
John: Hm, well, Jonathan Daugherty is our guest today on “Focus on the Family” and he’s captured the conflict and some of the challenges that he’s already expressed here and much, much more in his book, Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity and Second Chances. And we’ll encourage you to call us for a copy of that or if this is a struggle for you, we have a team of caring Christian counselors and we would be happy for you to have an initial consultation with them. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or online you’ll find help at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And Jonathan, thinkin’ about your family, your parents are Christians, but you just felt like you couldn’t share this with your dad. I mean, what was your relationship with your dad like at this point?
Jonathan: You know, it’s interesting, because every time I think of my dad, there has never been a man that I have loved or respected more than my father. And yet, there was still sort of like this disconnect, almost as if you took opposite ends of a magnet and tried to push ‘em together. We [didn’t have] a friction relationship. It was more like just a disconnect relationship.
And bless his heart, I mean, he tried. I learned later from my mother that he would spend nights just praying how do I connect with my son? And I can relate to that. I’ve got a son myself and sometimes it’s hard to connect with boys. And I think part of it was, I just felt like we could connect intellectually, but he didn’t know how to express emotion. He didn’t know how to draw me into an emotional connection. Plus there were, I think were some other factors, too that can’t be totally dismissed. You know, I went the first seven days of my life without being physically touched. I was a “bubble boy” (Chuckling) basically.
Jonathan: I was in an ICU and all this because I tried to breathe too early.And so, we know some now and some of the power of physical touch and so that’s even another factor that has been an issue with my ability to connect, so it was on both sides I think, that he just didn’t know quite how to draw me into emotional connection and I wasn’t necessarily willing to open myself up to that.
Jim: Well, and in that dad role, I think we’re spending a bit of time on here, because many of us are fathers with teen boys. Thinking back now, is there a way that he could’ve connected with you that maybe many dads listening could attempt with their 12-, 13-, 15-year-old young men right now? I mean, what can a dad, he’s thinkin’ that that’s me. I’m that dad. What can he do today that’ll be different that would’ve connected with you as a teen boy?
Jonathan: I think one of the biggest things and this is where I feel like fathers have trouble with this, is tell him your story.
Jim: And be vulnerable.
Jonathan: Just tell him your story. Yes, tell him the honest story. Now you can do this in age-appropriate ways that aren’t going to introduce him, maybe, to material that he’s not ready to process.
But what I’ve done with my son is throughout the stages is, “Hey, let me tell you what I was like when I was 12. And let me tell you some stories from then. Let me tell you what I was like when I was 14.” And to just be able to let him see, well, dad was 12 at one point in time. Dad was 14. And there’s an identification there, too.
But the other thing, too, is then to be able to speak into the next stage that he’s stepping into. The reason that myself and so many other teens growing up struggle with all the things they’re introduced to is because they’re constantly being introduced to them without any preparation.
So, if you’ve got a 9-year-old boy, guess what? You need to already be preparing him for the body changes that are gonna be coming in the next few years. Also even average age of first-time exposure to pornography is 9- to 11-years-old. So, even at 8-years-old, you need to start giving kind of a high level just, “Hey, there’s some stuff out there that you don’t need to be seeing, that it’s not healthy for your mind or your eyes.”
So, start to introduce or prepare them for that next level, so that they’re not totally taken off guard and you create that feedback loop that says, “And there’s nothing you could ever tell me about what you’ve seen or what you’ve engaged that you would ever be in trouble for.”
Jim: Jonathan, that is such good advice and let me turn to you, the listener. Here at Focus, we want to support families who are dealing with these tough issues. We have a free pdf download called “Digital Pornography Addition: What You Need to Know and Where You Can Find Help.” That’s available to you. You just need to access it here at Focus.
Many children and teens get trapped by pornography when they click the wrong link and it pops up right in their face. So, we need to help them, as you’re saying, Jonathan, so that they know how to respond to this. Let’s put a link on our website, John, so people can get this free download.
John: Yeah, that’s a great idea and you can find that at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us if you would like. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And I want to take another swing at this, but again, your relationship with the Lord, where you were at in trying to, I guess, hold onto these opposing forces in your heart, in your soul. Describe that for us. How did you rationalize going to church on Sunday? You were learning more about sexual impurity, which is, you know, throughout Scripture in different ways--
Jim: --stated that this is displeasing to the Lord. How did you encounter those Scriptures or that Sunday school message and process that as a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old?
Jonathan: I think the biggest disconnect I had was, you know, the Bible says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. And I had a real heavy leaning toward the truth side. And I think I had this overblown sense of irrational or unhealthy fear of God in the sense of like, God is angry with me and ready to punish me for the things that I’m doing.
And so, grace was kind of very small on this scale, because I’m thinking I know I’m guilty. I know I’m doing these things. I know that I am doing stuff in the dark that He doesn’t approve of. And so, I was trying to perform in such a way that again, others would find me acceptable. And so, I’m wrestling in my soul of, well, Jesus had this perfect completeness of truth and grace. And if I’m to be like Christ and walk as He walked, why do I have this overblown sense of truth and hardly any grace in how I’m living my life? And that’s why I think the shame just overwhelmed me. I’m living in this sense of, I’m not worth much.
Jim: Well, and that’s a powerful statement coming from a teen young person, boy or girl, when they feel like they’re not measuring up. They’re not getting it and they don’t know how to get out of the pit. In fact, this got so heavy and such a burden for you, it was creating depression and you were even contemplating suicide, correct?
Jim: Well, how old were you when those thoughts began to enter your head and how did you process that?
Jonathan: I think the thought entered my head more along the lines of just feeling like maybe it would be better it I just wasn’t around. I think at first it wasn’t necessarily suicide or in the sense of, “Hey, I really want to follow through on this,” but probably around 16-, or 17-years-old. It wouldn’t be till I was almost 24, 25, that I started truly contemplating following through on that.
But see, you had about a seven- or eight-year period there where that was the common thought spinning in my head is, I’ve got such a double life going on there that it might just be better for everyone, myself included, if I just didn’t exist anymore.
Jim: Ah, that is powerful.Jonathan, you have been so vulnerable, you know, with this part of the story. I appreciate it and I know many people are moving closer to whatever they’re listening to—the radio, the podcast, the smartphone—because you’re speaking to all of our hearts about this incredible vulnerability. And I would like to come back next time and complete kind of the dark part of the story, but then talk about how God began to heal your situation and bring you to a better place, because that’s where everyone wants to be in that deeper relationship.
But what I love about your story is, it all starts with honesty. You know, when Jesus was in front of Pontius Pilate, he said, “Are you a king?” “Well, they say I am.” But He ended up saying, in essence, “I’m here to testify to the truth.” And that includes this kind of an area, that when Christ enters your heart, He’s shining that light to say, come on. Come with Me. Let’s know the truth together. Who are you really? And let’s begin to rebuild those broken places in your soul. That’s what you experienced and I’m looking forward, if you’re willing, to come back next time and put the God part of the story into this. Can we do it?
Jonathan: I’d be delighted to.
John: And that same kind of vulnerability you’ve heard today from Jonathan is captured in his book, Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity and Second Chances. And we’ll recommend that you get a copy of that, maybe for a men’s group or a Bible study at your church.
Jim: John, this book is such a valuable resource that I want to make it available to as many families as possible. That’s how much we believe in it. If you send us a gift for any amount, we’ll send you a complimentary copy as our way of saying thank you for investing in the ministry here at Focus.
You know, pornography is decimating families today and we can’t afford to look the other way or hope our children won’t be exposed to it. It’s going to happen most likely.
Parents, you need to address this topic with your young children and warn them about the dangers they’re gonna face not too far in the future. Men, we need to protect ourselves from this temptation by having computer filters and accountability with our spouses, for sure and I would suggest, also accountability with other godly men.
And if you are struggling in this area like Jonathan was or flirting with danger by watching in appropriate movies or TV shows or whatever, I want to urge you to contact Focus on the Family today. Don’t delay, ‘cause you’ll get too busy or at least, you’ll be talked into believing you’re too busy and this probably is the most important thing you need to deal with.
We want to help you get back on track with God and honor him and especially given He died for you and for those sins that are in all of us. We want you to have a life that’s pleasing to the Lord and we can put you in touch with a Christian counselor here at Focus. We have local referrals, as well, probably a couple of people in your town or city. We’ll do whatever we can to help you find that healing and restoration. So, don’t delay; get the help you need today.
John: Thenumber is 800-232-6459. Ask to speak with someone on our counseling team. They’ll take your name and number and give you a call back just as soon as they can. Again, that’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. You can also find out about resources regarding pornography addiction at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And those resources include a CD or a download of our conversation today, including what we’ll have next time for you and you’ll see Jonathan’s book, as well, Secrets and that free digital pornography addiction download that we mentioned.
Please give generously to this family ministry so we can continue reaching out to help hurting families with programs of hope and healing like this one and with the resources I’ve mentioned.
And coming up next time on “Focus on the Family,” Jonathan explains how pornography nearly destroyed his marriage.
Mr. Jonathan Daugherty: Because it felt to her like she had given me the most precious delicate part of who she is and I decided to just throw it in the trash and that just crushed her.
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John: I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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