Victory Over Pornography Addiction
Matt Aujero discusses how he discovered love alone can overcome this difficult battle.
Is there hope for people who struggle with pornography addiction?
Although it is a difficult battle, Matt Aujero believes it is possible to break free. Aujero, a Washington-area pornography counselor, overcame his own addiction to pornography and now helps other young men win victory, too.
Aujero mentors men at the Centro Tepeyac pregnancy resource center in Silver Spring, Md., and serves as men’s campus minister at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland. Also a blogger for two websites, Catholic Fried Rice and I Believe In Love, Aujero sat down recently for an interview with the Register to discuss his ministry with men struggling with pornography addiction, as well as his own nearly 20 years of his own struggles with temptation.
How did pornography enter your life?
I experienced my first exposure to pornography in fifth grade. I was hooked immediately.
In high school and college, I knew pornography was something I wasn’t supposed to look at, but I didn’t know anyone my age who wasn’t doing the same.
When I attended The Catholic University of America, however, things began to change. I met some guys who cared about chastity and being pure. Pornography was a big topic. The brotherhood I joined was saying: “Look, this is something we have to fight, and we have to hold each other accountable.”
In your talks, you mention you recognized the problem with pornography and wanted to quit, yet you continued to struggle for several years. Can you touch on what it takes to stop using pornography and why it can take years to finally break free?
I think we have to recognize pornography is addictive, like a drug. There is research showing pornography is as addictive as hard drugs, like cocaine.
It’s also important to be aware that many men know pornography is wrong, but use it anyway. I know this from both my experience with pornography and working with other guys who struggle with the addiction.
Any addict will likely fail to overcome his addiction if he continues to expose himself to the things he’s addicted to. Similarly, a man addicted to pornography will likely fail if he puts himself in the near occasion of sin. For example, using the Internet alone or late at night, especially if he’s experiencing boredom, stress or anger.
A decade ago, I realized pornography was wrong and started my journey to recovery. It isn’t, however, as easy as it sounds.
You have explained three loves are necessary to break free from pornography.
Yes. The first love I needed was from another guy [who had overcome a pornography problem] who cared enough for me to say, “I’ve been there, too, but let’s get out of here together.”
The second love I needed was chaste love for a woman. This can particularly drive and motivate a man.
The third love, which I needed above all, was God’s love.
Can you elaborate?
As you said, I struggled for a full decade with this. I found that I could stop using pornography for a time, only to fall again.
Like many men, I would binge when I fell. I would sometimes binge for three or four straight days. Then I would go to confession and stop for a while. I went through this cycle for years.
It wasn’t until 2011, when I was in Costa Rica, that I began to break the cycle. My relationship with Mimi — who later became my wife — ended. After, I decided to stop dating and for the first time concentrate solely on my relationship with God.
On Valentine’s Day that year, I was alone in my room, and I picked up my guitar and started playing a love song. In my solitude, I said words I had never spoken out loud: “I love you, God.”
I finally realized the true love of my life: God. For the first time, I heard God say, “I love you, too.”
And it was this third love — love from and for God — that really pushed me along.
Why do you think pornography is such a struggle for men?
Many have experienced a deep wound. It could be a “father wound” [from an absentee or abusive father] or a painful experience in their childhood. Whatever the cause, there’s a deep wound, and they try to band-aid it with sex and/or pornography.
None of this, however, can heal the wound. Only God can heal such deep wounds.
I experienced my first real healing in the solitude of my room on that Valentine’s Day — bringing my heart to God, asking him to take care of it.
My resistance to pornography then became love-driven. By God’s hand, this is when things really turned around for me.
You said you realized all of this in 2011. In your talk, however, you mention you apologized to your wife. Was this because you were still looking at pornography in your marriage?
Yes. I went a long time without porn. From the time I came back from Costa Rica to the summer of 2012, I was mostly fine. I had fallen perhaps four or five times in the span of a year. Then I started dating Mimi again, and we got engaged. Up until several months prior to our wedding, I was totally pornography-free.
As I mentioned in my talk, though, I thought I wouldn’t have any more problems. After all, when I got married, I’d be able to make love! I wouldn’t need pornography, or so I thought.
I let my guard down, told myself I had made it, and took my eyes off God.
The normal changes that come with the first year of marriage — moving in together, getting a new job and adapting to a new lifestyle — can be a real stress. This, combined with taking my eyes off God, led to using pornography a handful of times early in our marriage.
I was surprised and felt distraught. “How did this happen?” I told Mimi when I had fallen. She cried each time and also got very frustrated. But every time, after praying about it, she held the bar even higher for me to reach. We added precautions, prayed together and sometimes fasted together.
I went months at a time between falls. And the very last time I fell, she looked at me and said, “You talk about how pornography can break up marriages. Well, this can break up our marriage.”
She wasn’t threatening me, but she was pointing out how pornography could insidiously break up our marriage if I continued to use it. At that point, I wrote to God in my journal, asking him to enter my heart and once again become the love of my life.
Allowing the love of God to drive me again meant letting go of my pride. For example, I almost broke my addiction without using a Web filter, and I was proud of that. But I realized if I wanted to fully break the habit, I had to use all precautions. So we added a filter, Covenant Eyes, that sent Mimi an email listing all the sites I visited on my computer and my phone.
I removed Safari, Chrome and Twitter — all of which can be used to view pornography. I asked Mimi to create a password to prevent me from downloading inappropriate browsers or apps. I kept only email and Facebook.
The story of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus was a big help to me. As long as Peter’s eyes were on Jesus, he walks on water: He does the impossible.
The moment he starts looking at the waves crashing around him, he starts to fall. That’s exactly how I feel when I’m looking at Jesus: I can do the impossible and walk on water.
When I take my eyes off Jesus and focus on the waves crashing around me, that’s when I start to fall and need to run back to him.
Freedom from pornography is a choice I have to make every day. I drive this home to the guys I counsel.
Will you share a few words on how parents can protect children from pornography addiction?
I believe parents need to be aware of how their kids can view or be exposed to pornography. Unfiltered, an online DVD by Covenant Eyes, is an excellent tool for parents to learn how to talk to their children about the harms of pornography. It explains the science behind pornography addiction and Church teachings about pornography.
Parents need to be aware that children can watch pornography on popular apps like Twitter and see inappropriate photos and videos from friends on Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and more. And there is no technology currently that filters apps on phones.
After explaining the dangers of the Internet, another good idea is for parents to allow only the bare necessities on their children’s devices: a safe, filtered browser and email.
If a child becomes hooked on pornography at a young age, it’s really hard to break free. I believe parents should have their children return all devices to their room when everyone’s in bed. Take away temptation and the near occasion of sin.
Above all, our children need to know we love them and they’re loved by God. When they’re hurt, our children should know they can always turn to us, and we’ll bring them to the Divine Healer.
Dustin Siggins writes from Washington.