Encouraging Men Along the ‘Road to Purity’
Recovering addict Dann Aungst helps people overcome sex addiction and live chastely.
Dann Aungst is the president and founder of Road to Purity, a nonprofit organization that helps people overcome sex addiction. He is also a self-described “recovering sex addict,” which began with looking at pornographic magazines as a boy. His addiction led him to massage parlors, affairs and prostitutes — and marital infidelity. He began to break free of his addiction after going on a men’s retreat at age 45, with the help of counseling, accountability groups, prayer and consistent visits to the sacrament of confession.
He believes God is calling him to help other men break free of sexual addiction, launching his nonprofit organization and developing the “Restoring God’s Foundation” program, which, due to generous benefactors, he is able to offer free of charge. His work has been endorsed by his bishop, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver. He is also an author of five books on purity, is a certified addiction counselor and has written materials for confessors and seminarians on helping those with sexual addiction.
You believe that sexual addiction is not merely about a desire for the pleasure of sex, but to fill a void in one’s life.
Yes. For the sexual addict, the pleasure of sex is a part of the medication he applies to overcome the pain of his woundedness. Pope St. John Paul II’s theology of the body teaches us that God created sex as an extremely pleasurable experience intended for a married man and woman to bring new children into the Kingdom. It reflects the Holy Trinity; when a couple co-create a child, they make another image of the Trinity, which is something God wants us to do. The mechanical method he gives us is sex. Sex also creates a bonding with one’s spouse; in love, we are created to give and receive love.
But the default human condition is that, because of sin, we are wounded and broken and are unable to achieve perfect love in our lifetimes [and certain circumstances can create situations that lead to sexual sin].
All addictions feed an emptiness inside of us. In sex addiction, with the encouragement of the devil, sex becomes a pleasurable means to cope with these unpleasant feelings we have had since childhood. [Addicts] are in pain, and we attempt to soothe that pain through sex.
You stress that marriage is not a cure for porn addiction.
Many people think that when they marry that they will have all the sex they want and won’t need porn any longer. That is what I once believed. But, in reality, when you get close to your spouse, he or she sees your woundedness, your faults, and may point them out. You begin to see yourself as unworthy, and not good enough, and your sexual relationship with your spouse becomes less and less a safe place.
So you believe your spouse sees you as not good enough, unworthy, and your relationship actually becomes a catalyst for more porn use and other sexually addictive behaviors and not the soothing thing you thought it would be.
Whomever you marry, they will be wounded like you are. Pride emerges, and conflict begins. Part of successful marriage counseling is getting couples to set aside their pride and focus on the love they should have for the other person. Once you are accepted for who you are, there will be no need to escape through porn use, affairs and prostitution.
In sharing your personal story, you tell about your long-suffering wife, who had to endure your having an affair with a coworker and telling her you didn’t love her, and moving out of the house for a time, and giving her a sexually transmitted disease. But it was she who wouldn’t give up on the marriage.
The only reason I am still married is by the grace of God. No other woman could have endured what I put my wife through. I’ve seen many divorces happen for much less.
She is a strong, devout Catholic, but once I gave her the STD, it seemed like the final straw. She went to see a priest, asking about Catholic teaching on divorce and if it was okay to say, “I’m done.” He asked her to wait two months, and he put me in a program that started me on my recovery.
Were your children aware of what was going on?
My son was only 2 during our hardest period and did not know what was going on. My daughter was 7 or 8 when I had my affair and left home. When I came back, she said to me, “Daddy, I’m glad you finally came to your senses.” It blew me away how well she understood what was going on.
You’re a Catholic convert. How has Catholicism offered you help in overcoming sex addiction?
Two of the biggest helps have been receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist and going to confession. The grace that flows from these has been a big part of my healing. I have also received major help from praying in the adoration chapel.
What do you advise people who are struggling to do?
I invite those struggling with sex addiction to visit my website and take the free online course. Review my website for the latest news, and sign up for our free newsletter. Look at the materials we have, which include help for confessors and seminarians who will deal with those with sex addiction; and for those with sex addiction, we also have communities that can offer support as you seek recovery. I welcome prayers and financial support. I can be emailed through the website; I am available for speaking engagements and offer a 15-minute consultation for those with sex addiction on how they can get started on the road to recovery.
- harm of pornography
- pornography addiction
- jim graves
- church teaching on sexuality
- sexual addiction
- sexual sins
- sacrament of penance
- church teaching on marriage
- theology of the body
- holy eucharist
- eucharistic adoration