When i read the most recent post by Ethan Renoe the other day, Porn and the Doughnut Man, i got thinking about a really embarrassing event which involves picking through the trash, that happened when i was in the throes of my compulsive sexual behavior.
In Ethan’s post, he talks about offering free doughnuts to a man who is picking through the garbage looking for something to eat. The man turns down the offer of freshly baked doughnuts and continues rummaging through the trash.
Ethan muses about the symbolism and meaning of that exchange, and how it relates to the offer of the Gospel. How many times, Ethan wonders, has he been just like that man picking through the trash, turning down something good that is offered freely in favor of rubbish.
The picture Ethan paints immediately reminded me of a slightly different scenario from my life that involves porn and a trash can — or more specifically — a dumpster.
Back when i was regularly acting out in my addiction, i would buy porn videos. i would buy one at a time, and i would dispose of each one immediately after watching it. i was nervous that if i held on to the videos and built a stash i would get caught, so i always found a trash can or a dumpster and threw the videos out.
The visit to the trash can at the end of my acting out was just as much a part of the ritual of my addiction as the build up to the purchase was. There was a twisted poetry about it. At the end of the episode of pleasing my addiction, my physical action finally matched what the whole experience had been from the start: wasteful.
There was this one time that it had a new low, and the metaphor was all too real.
i watched a porn video and threw it in a dumpster in the alley behind my apartment. Feeling disgusted, i walked away from that experience with various promises on my lips: That’s the last time; This is over; i can’t sink any lower, so this has to be where it all turns around; i am dead to this; now that i have gotten this out of my system, i won’t need porn anymore, and on and on.
The guilt and shame and self-reproach were thick for the rest of that day and the next. But the day after that, i was remembering parts of that video that i had really liked; parts of the video that were “so good” i wanted to see them one more time before really quitting porn for good.
And so, i climbed into that dumpster and clawed around for the video until i found it.
i found it. Fortunately, there was not that much trash in the dumpster, so i managed to only get slightly dirty.
It would have been more fitting, perhaps, if the dumpster had been full of banana peels, coffee grounds, half-eaten fast food, dirty diapers, and all manner of nasty refuse. Nevertheless, the reality of what i had done was significant. i had been so desperate for porn that i had climbed into a large metal container of garbage to get it.
i don’t even think i debated with myself whether to do it. i just did it. There was no internal back-and-forth conversation of:
i’m going in there.
What? You’re crazy.
Before i knew it, i was in there with the trash.
i remember coming out of the dumpster and immediately what came to mind were the lyrics from Addicted by The Juliana Hatfield Three, which starts out with these lines:
i think i’m addicted / gotta have it everyday.
i think i’m addicted / i’m digging up what i threw away.
There it was; someone had written a rock song about me. The lyrics mocked me. The self-hatred kicked in all over again, this time with even more venom.
i know what it’s like to choose the garbage of porn — and the porn of the garbage —over life, freedom and sanity. What i didn’t know then, but i do now, is that what i was really looking for in that dumpster years ago wasn’t porn at all.
i was actually looking for life. But there was nobody in my life who would help me figure it out.
If Ethan Renoe had walked past with a box of doughnuts while i was fumbling through that dumpster years ago, i would have done the same thing that the guy in Ethan’s story did: refused the offer and turned back to the trash.
Truth be told, everyday some version of that scenario plays itself out, regardless of the fact that haven’t looked at porn for a long time. There is an offer of goodness and life for free that gets presented to me, and there is some form of trash that beckons me.
It’s crucial that i leave the trash in the dumpster and stop digging up what i threw away.