Michael Leahy: Author of "Porn Nation"
By Heather Salon
The 700 Club
Michael Leahy is a husband, a father, and a recovering sex addict. As founder and Executive Director of BraveHearts, a ministry he started in 2003, he has an ambitious goal of building a global healing community that transforms lives through the power of personal story. Their mission is to educate others about sexual addiction and the sexualization of our culture, and to inspire those who struggle and their loved ones to have hope and seek out help.
"It took losing my 15-year marriage, my boys, my job, my friends, my affair partner, any hopes of reconciling with and re-marrying Patty, and a whole lot of money before I finally hit bottom," Michael says. "That's what it took to finally get my attention."
Michael was a sex addict, and the roots began as a kid when he saw pornographic pictures in the schoolyard. Michael had hit puberty during an interesting era in American history – in the late '60s/early ‘70s during the sexual revolution. One day at the school playground during recess, a group of bullies who had picked on him for some time beckoned Michael to come over to them. They introduced him to pornography – a playing card with a topless woman on it. He was shocked. He had never seen a picture of a naked woman before. At the same time, he admits he liked what he saw and the energy rush he felt from seeing it. The details of that image stayed in his mind. He began to look at more pictures.
No adults ever properly educated Michael about sex. He did have some formal education at his Catholic church by the priest with parents sitting in the back of the room (including Michael's father), but Michael says this didn't necessarily answer all the questions that he had. He became more involved with sexual activity, mostly fueled by the pornographic images he saw. Through college, he remained promiscuous without having a steady girlfriend. Pornographic magazines were commonplace and "hooking up" with people was okay, as long as no one got hurt.
This addiction grew to control him as the years went by. Michael knew God and the Bible but stopped going to church once he finished college. He accepted Christ back into his life two years after he married his first wife, Patty. However, he was living a double life. He didn’t give up pornography and it took up much of his time, even though he was active in his church. He also began to have an affair with another woman.
Towards the end of his marriage, Michael went to a counselor, but he was still using pornography and kept seeing the other woman. Finally, he hit bottom. Once he hit the bottom of his painful and steady decline, he renewed his relationship with the Lord and chose a faith-based recovery program to get healed.
One part of his recovery included dealing with and reconciling in his relationships. He had to heal his soul by changing his heart. He realized that for 13 years he had lost intimacy in his marriage before it actually fell apart. Patty, a strong Christian, writes about her struggle through it all.
Michael says one of the hardest and most important things he had to do was to forgive Patty's new husband, Tommy, a very good man who was good to his sons. Michael had treated him badly for a long time. It hurt Michael that Tommy had taken his place, he felt. But in Christ, Michael did ask Tommy's forgiveness which he gladly gave.
It’s been a long process of recovery for Michael. There are a few things he did that helped him and what he suggests for others:
You must really want to get well; he took his relationship with the Lord more seriously.
Bring your addiction out of the darkness and into the light – find a trusted, safe person who you can talk to that can lead you to some good resources, don’t wait too long to find that person.
Find some good faith-based recovery groups for sex addiction/get counseling.
Have strict accountability; Keep strict boundaries.
What you feed grows, and what you starve dies – he “starved” himself of pornographic images by cutting out cable (literally) and getting rid of the Internet in his home and “fed” himself with God’s Word – you must go through this detox process.
A big part of helping Michael through the recovery process was hearing the stories of other people who were sex addicts. Michael says he never expected to be a spokesman on this subject, but this addiction affects so many men and their families - Christian men.
The societal saturation of illicit pictures, videos, etc., is something that must be confronted. Here are some interesting statistics about sexual addiction:
Sexual addiction is America’s #1 and least talked about addiction.
Sexual addiction is not just a “guy problem.” More and more women are becoming addicts. The sex industry is even trying to “cater” more to women.
It is estimated that 40 million American adults regularly visit pornographic websites, one in three of them are women.
Currently, the revenues of sex and the porn industry in the U.S. are about $10-13 billion - that’s larger than the revenues of the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball combined.
America is the largest importer, exporter, producer, and the fourth largest consumer of pornography in the world.
As an author and expert on sexual addiction and the sexualization of our culture, Michael has spoken on over 200 college campuses (works closely with Campus Crusade) to over 100,000 students attending his Porn Nation event or The Great Porn Debate with porn industry legend Ron Jeremy. Michael also appears often in churches and at conferences to share his life-changing story of reconciliation and redemption. He calls this “the new evangelism.”
SOME INDICATORS OF SEXUAL ADDICTION
How do you know if you or someone you love suffers from sexual addiction? The following patterns have been compiled by health care professional Dr. Patrick Carnes (though this analysis should be carried out by a health care professional, you can go to Dr. Carnes website www.sexhelp.com or take the Sexual Addiction Screening Test at www.mysexsurvey.com). Here are some indicators of a sexual addiction:
1. Acting out: a pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior.
2. Experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior, and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences. Ex. loss of a spouse, severe marriage/relationship problems, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases.
3. Ongoing desire to limit sexual behavior.
4. Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy.
Some other indicators that Michael says are physical withdrawal, irritability (the person will act out, especially when their personal time is interrupted), mood changes, fight against of any level of accountability/transparency if excuses don’t “line up” (if they are caught in lies).
There is a level of denial and lying when it comes to sexual addiction, like most addictions. Similar to other addictions, the loved ones of the addicted must recognized that they can’t force the addicted to choose recovery, but the loved ones can choose recovery for themselves. The loved ones must also know that the addiction isn’t their fault.
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