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Freed from Sin’s Bondage

My name is John Spinks. I am an inmate in the Federal Correction Complex Petersburg, Virginia. I am in the last year of a six-year sentence for charges related to child pornography.

I most likely would not fit the perceived profile of a person of any crime involving pornography, as is the case with many professionals caught in the same evil web. I was not only a devoted husband and father but also a respected preacher. As is often the case with pornography addiction, my family and friends were totally unaware of the addiction that plagued my life for more than thirty years. My arrest was a shock that threatened to destroy the foundation of my family and my faith.

The past four years have been full of heartache and pain, and many tears have been shed. But at the core of this emotional tsunami, the loving grace of God has never ceased to be present. His hand of grace has sustained my family through the storm.

Unfortunately, mine is not an isolated case. With the advent of the Internet, porn has become an insidious addiction that has managed to ensnare countless otherwise respectable people. It is a cancer that eats away at the moral and spiritual fabric of humanity. A recent study found that fifty percent of Protestant pastors surveyed admitted to viewing pornography. Looking at porn is a seemingly innocuous act that can hook a person faster than the most diabolic street drug, with effects just as addictive and cataclysmic.

What follows is a brief account of my descent into such a deplorable addiction, and how God saved me through the Catholic Church. It is my prayer that by telling my story I can warn people about the danger of porn and that God will use my testimony to help others struggling with porn addiction. I hope it will give them courage to seek help, allowing them to step out of the darkness into the light of freedom.

 

Locker room introduction

I saw my first men’s magazine in the boys’ locker room in middle school. I had no way of knowing that this first look at porn would lead to an addiction that I would battle for thirty years. It became a daily struggle that I lost miserably.

Addiction to porn is unique, different from alcohol or drug addiction in that it is more emotional and psychological than physical. This means porn addiction can persist and even escalate undetected indefinitely. A person can lead a normal life by all outward appearances, showing none of the telltale signs that alcohol or drugs exhibit. Yet porn is every bit as controlling and over time can eliminate any self-restraint a person may once have had.

I say that to say this: porn is a veritable and deadly addiction that pollutes your life. It becomes so consuming that no matter what you’re doing—working, socializing, dining with family, or even sitting in Sunday school—you are always aware of the craving that you need to get back to porn. The poison of it eats away at you, destroying you from the inside out.

Buying porn magazines and renting porn videos became routine. I hate to think about the money I’ve spent on the drug of my choice. With the Internet, porn became cheaper and more readily available. No longer did I have to sneak around, waiting at the adult bookstore to buy a magazine or rent a movie, hoping no one I knew saw me.

Sneaking around in the digital world was much easier, and I did not have to worry so much about being discovered. A cornucopia was at my fingertips, a kingdom of carnal delights instantly available, and I was the master of the kingdom. At least that was the bill of goods the Internet sold me.

For all the benefits that the Internet has provided the world, it has the potential to be equally destructive. To me, a porn addict, the Internet was a Trojan horse wheeled into my house and my life, the enemy invading my soul. However, I have no wish to misrepresent myself by playing the blame game. I do not fault the Internet or anyone else for my circumstances. I am dealing with the consequences of the bad choices I made. Sure, the Internet, movie rentals, and Hollywood certainly contributed to my addiction, but they in no way absolve me from responsibility. Everything I did, I did of my own volition.

 

Normal on the outside

One of the things that enabled the addiction to take a stronger and stronger hold on my life was the fact that I was able to lead normal life on the outside. Because of this, my slide down the slippery slope of porn threw up no caution flags. My public persona, the image I projected to the world, was vastly different than the condition of my heart. I was a good husband and father, a Sunday school teacher, and a Protestant pastor. I was also the vice president of Christian Men of America, extolling family values and working for a return to Godly values in our homes and government.

This was the person whom people saw, the image I so successfully projected. In my denial, I thought I was doing just fine. I thought I had everything under control. What people didn’t know wouldn’t hurt anyone. But God knew better. God saw something much different, a man with heart stained with sin, in bondage to pornography.

People have asked me why I didn’t seek help. To be perfectly candid, the addiction was so seductive that I was convinced I was okay, that I didn’t need help. I mean, doesn’t everyone have a hobby? Some guys like to hunt, fish, play golf. My hobby happened to be porn. And if, perchance, it wasn’t normal, if some guilt managed to infiltrate my secret kingdom of carnal pleasure, one thing kept me from seeking help: pride.

Sure, there were times I tried to walk away from it. But I was powerless; I could not do it on my own. Foolish pride kept me from getting help. I was afraid of facing my family and friends with the truth: my weakness. Addiction to porn is not something that can be talked about openly.

Make no mistake; porn addiction is so insidious that it can never be handled on your own. But I was unsure where to turn for help even if I wanted to. Who do you tell about your addiction to porn? There are no hotlines advertised on TV. Besides, I was a preacher, the one to whom other people looked for help with their own problems.

And yet I was a sinner worse off than those who came to me for help. I was a hypocrite leading a secret life of bondage to sin, living proof that addiction is no respecter of person or position. I was powerless over lust. So I kept it hidden in my heart, locked away, a secret from my family and friends. I was a prisoner of my pride.

 

Busted

That all changed on March 25, 2010. God took my pride and brought me to my knees. My life and my family’s life would change forever. Nothing would ever be the same. I was arrested on charges related to child pornography. I told the FBI agent that morning I was glad that he was there and that it was out in the open. I was finally free to face the addiction head on. The sneaking and hiding were over. God rolled back the curtain, exposing my secret life to the world. When I would not humble myself, God stepped in and humbled me. I thank God daily for his intervention!

When I tell men in prison that I am blessed by God, they often scoff. Many ask, “If you’re blessed, why does God allow you to be in prison?” My answer is simple: God allowed me to come here because he is working a miracle in my life. He allowed me to come to prison to set me free! I entered the fiery furnace bound with sin and addiction. When I walk out, I walk out free, with a powerful testimony.

Early in my life I prayed to receive Christ as my savior, but I never truly felt his peace and presence. I had an outward form of “religion,” but my heart was still far from God. Two days after my arrest, I prayed with my wife on the phone as I stood in the hall of the county jail. It is there I prayed to receive Christ as my savior.

As I said, this was something I had done many years before—or so I thought. It was there in the jail that I came to understand that I had been giving lip service to God. For the first time in my life, I was being truly honest with God about my sin and my need for a savior.

Still, even after praying this prayer, I felt the shame and guilt for my sins and the pain that I had caused my wife and family. My sins had cut deep into not only my soul but also the soul of the family. I struggled daily with being able to forgive myself. God would teach me the power of forgiveness in a most unlikely place.

 

Life-changing experience

While at the federal correction institution where I am incarcerated, I was invited by a man in my unit to attend Mass with him. This was not something I sought out, or even something I thought I would ever do. After all, I was raised in a Baptist home and was a Baptist preacher. Still, I felt the Holy Spirit draw me to attend this service.

The most amazing thing took place at that Mass. I truly felt the presence of God. The message that the priest, Fr. Bernie, preached was Spirit-filled and powerful. Over the next few months I attended Mass weekly. As I began to study and read about the Catholic Church, God showed me that my preconceived notions about the Faith were wrong. What Christ showed me was a church that was truly Christian. I fell in love with the Catholic Church.

It was then I made the decision to become Catholic. I began RCIA classes and was confirmed in September 2011. Going to confession for the first time was foreign to me, having been raised Baptist. It turned out to be a life-changing experience. Sitting before Fr. Bob, in the presence of almighty God, I was able to confess thirty years of sin and failure. For the first time in my life I felt the guilt and shame of my sins being washed away.

I now truly understand just how deep God’s forgiveness reaches, and for the first time in my life I was able to forgive myself. After my arrest, my father shared with me the message of Jeremiah: God does not throw away the clay, even when the vessel is spoiled (see sidebar, p. x). I know now what this passage means. God forgave me of my sins and tore me down so that he could make me into a vessel that he can use. I am truly a new creation in Christ.

I pray that in my sharing of my testimony God would allow what has transpired in my life to help others who are struggling with porn addiction. They need to know that there is hope, a truth to which I testify through my own experience. They must be made aware that there are people willing to help. We must be willing to swallow our pride and reach out, being assured most wholeheartedly that there is no shame in seeking help.

I was blessed that during my time of home confinement, before self-surrendering to the federal correction institution, I was allowed to seek that help. Through counseling and Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), a twelve-step program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, I was able to confront my addiction. Since coming to federal prison, I have discovered a new program called Celebrate Recovery. The Celebrate Recovery Bible has become an important part of my life. Because of opportunities like these, I am a recovering porn addict. I strongly recommend SA, or Celebrate Recovery, or other good programs like Sex Addicts Anonymous, for anyone who is in the “fight for his life” with porn.

One last word about sin. Sin will take you farther than you want to go; sin will keep you longer than you want to stay; sin will cost you more than you are willing to pay. The sin of pornography did all of this to me, but God reached down and lifted out. He will do the same for anyone who seeks his help. Through his grace, I have been situated firmly on the rock of his love and safekeeping.

He continues to bless my family every day we walk in faith. We are a family that is still standing, surviving Satan’s best shot. After seventeen years of marriage, my wife and I are closer than ever. My daughter has a “new” daddy, my wife a “new” husband, and I am freer now that I have ever been because of the grace, love, and power of an awesome God.

John Spinks









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3 comments

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Why exchange one sex obsession with another? The Catholic Church is maniacally obsessive when it comes to all things sexual in nature. That must have made it an easy transition.

  2. Irene Michaud-Bradford Reply

    Patrick I think, you need to research the Catholic Church a bit more before you go making statements like this. The Catholic faith is not maniacally obsessive about sex. In fact, we are the only faith that understands that sex is a very sacred and wonderful gift from God and we, as humans, have made it something dirty and shameful. You simply don’t know what you are talking about!

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      Yes, Irene, the RCC is maniacally obsessive about sex, and I am most certainly not the first or only person to take note of this. It’s very well established. If a subject has anything whatsoever to do with sex or human genitalia – even if it’s just a simple question of which bathroom a person chooses to use – then the RCC has a position on it. It’s a perverse obsession; and it stands to reason, given that the organization is comprised of disordered, celibate, virgin men dressed in robes who, having denied their own natural desires, determined to tell others that they must do the same or feel shame, guilt and fear if they don’t follow rigid, antiquated, unyielding Iron Age rules, that coincidentally keep them in control of sheeple.
      .
      I was born and raised Catholic. Don’t try to tell me that the Catholic Church isn’t wrapped around the axle over all things sexual. We all know better than that. It’s their favorite subject. It is religion that has made sex shameful and dirty. If the Church hadn’t made it thus, porn would not be a problem.
      .
      I will stop referring to the clergy as “disordered” when they stop referring to LGBTs with that term.

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