My name is Russ Hill. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ and I struggle with an addiction to pornography, anger and rejection. I was born near Detroit, MI in the winter of 1976. I am the 3rd of 5 children, older brother and sister, 2 younger brothers and me stuck in the middle. My dad was a pastor of a small church in Detroit and worked full time as well. So with this burdensome work load my dad was never around much, always working or doing ministry for some other family or person or the church. I felt that those things had become more important to him than us. That left my mom there to primarily raise us and she did the best she could with 5 kids but we needed more of my dad. My dad was there; however, only when there was a whooping to be done or yelling to do. One thing my dad knew how to do very well with his kids was instill fear and anger.
My dad had a short fuse with everyone, but especially us. I remember my older brother thrown through a door by my dad because he was angry with him, my dad yanking me off my feet by the back of my hair and pinning me to the floor with his boot because he was angry, my dad nearly breaking my arm by twisting it behind me because he was angry with me. So I learned to be afraid of my dad and I learned how to be angry. Most of my anger really ended up being focused on my older brother. He excelled at being foolish, mean, and downright cruel to me. It seemed that my brother took great enjoyment at being cruel to me because he did it with great enthusiasm daily. Over the years this resentment grew to hatred for my brother. All I wanted was to be loved and accepted by my brothers and sister, instead, all I felt was rejection like I was the outcast. Let me describe our relationship in a nutshell. My older brother despised him, my sister never really got along with me especially during our teen years, and my 2 younger brothers who I was very close as boys but we drifted apart as we got older. I felt rejected, alone, and unwanted by the people who should have wanted me the most. So I closed myself in and said it’s better to feel angry than hurt, therefore anger became by shield.
Making matters worse for me in the mix of all of this was pornography. I remember my first exposure to porn at the age of 10, I found a porn magazine in the alley behind our house. I actually remember saying “Praise God” when I found it. Oh, how I wish I could take back those words and I wish could take back that moment from my life.
I don’t know why but I was overly attracted to the images I saw. Those images burned into my mind, moved swiftly down to my heart and like a crack addict taking a hit for the first time I was hooked. From that day on I would seek a new magazine or some way to feed this new craving in me. This was the start of a tormented cycle in my teenage life. Go to church praise God, look at porn. Volunteer in youth group, look at more porn. Tell friends at school how great God is and how much He loves them, look at porn. Go on a mission trip, build a church for God, return home, and look at porn. Sing on the youth praise team, lust after the girl next to me or one in the crowd, return home and look at porn. Praying for, begging for God to take this from me, but I would look at more porn. Becoming sexually active at the age of 14, then feeling guilt and betrayal for everything I believed in.
All the while this pattern is taking place the shame is mounting, fear and anguish are settling in. I’m angrier now than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’m rejected at home, I fear being rejected if I say anything about my problem because all my friends are from church. I just couldn’t see them being able to understand. I felt hopeless, alone, burdened, and worthless. At the age of 20 I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed with my dad’s loaded 12 gauge shotgun. The butt end of the gun was on the floor and my chin was resting on the barrel. I was crying as my fingers slowly move toward the trigger. I wasn’t crying at the thought of what I was going to do, in fact that was becoming a more comfortable thought with each passing moment. The shame would be gone, no more rejection from my family, no more guilt, no more fear, no more anger, no more….well just no more. I was crying because I felt like I let down God. I failed Him. I just wanted to serve Him, I just wanted to be real, I wanted to be truthful, I wanted to be worthy, but all I did was fail. Shame and hopelessness was all I had left. My finger finally reached the trigger and I pulled it!
Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”
I looked down wondering what happened. Somehow the safety was on. I unloaded it, quietly put the gun away and said to God, “If I’m really worth anything, if you care, then you’d had better show me somehow in church tomorrow or I’ll make sure the safety is off next time.” Well God did show up and then some. A true spontaneous revival started in our church the very next day. God was there and I was not a hopeless case.
Later that same year I was accepted in to the Master’s Commission pilot program for the Church of God in Atlanta, GA. This intense 9 month program allowed my relationship with God to grow by leaps and bounds. The porn craving was going away, I felt like I had purpose and I was accepted. However, I had baggage and hurts and pain and I was still hiding. The student prayer list on the dry erase board was always filled with requests about my family. Even here, 5 states away, I couldn’t remove myself from my emotionally taxing family. I never wanted to call home because it was always another disaster, trouble or calamity every week. It seemed that this is the way it’s always been, and this was the way it always would be and I couldn’t escape my past no matter how far I went. My family had issues, I had issues and I couldn’t keep running from them for long.
At a spiritual retreat a man by the name of Perry Green came to minister to us. He was a tall strong black man, who was quite literally “the” poster boy for the Marines. He had an authority about him that could make a rock do 50 push ups if he told it to. During his time of ministering, we were all sitting in a large circle of about 20 chairs with Perry walking around in the middle going from various student to student as the Holy Spirit used him to call to the floor serious issues in their lives. I just sat there with my head down, hoping he wouldn’t come my way. This may sound strange but I actually felt my spirit jump inside me even before Perry began to move. Then a second later I hear his massive footsteps booming from the other end of circle as he is coming straight at me. His size 14 boots filled my vision as he stood towering over me. When I finally met his gaze it seemed that he could see right through me. Those were not the same eyes he had when we first met earlier that night. Now they were filled with God’s power and God’s authority. He pointed his finger at me and said, “IT’S A LIE! IT’S A LIE! IT’S A LIE!” I broke and began to cry, because the moment before he came over to me I had a voice in my head repeating, “You’ll NEVER be free from your past. God CAN NOT use you. You’ll NEVER have a future…so give up!” It awed me to think that God would once again stop everything and speak directly to me. God was there and once again he showed me I was not a hopeless case.
During my time at MC’s I met Cyndi (who was not in MC’s) at a youth retreat in Gatlinburg, TN of all places. We had some common friends and hung out that night. I really liked her and enjoyed talking and spending time with her. But MC students couldn’t date and I also met about a 1000 people a week, so I didn’t even try to remember names. The youth event was over, we went back to Atlanta and I went on with my MC duties. 3 months later we went to a church in Marietta, GA to minister and Cyndi heard we were going there and made sure to show up. I was walking down a hallway as our group was meeting outside to pray, when I saw this girl standing next to the wall and smiling at me. I made eye contact, smiled at her and just kept on walking.
I took about 5 steps and realized, “HEY! I know this girl!” “Oh my gosh! I remember her name! CYNDI!” I turned and went to her. The smile that had disappeared from me walking past her was back and I was glad to see it. That summer I stayed in GA not wanting to go home to MI. Cyndi and I became great friends. During my 2nd year at MC’s I felt God telling me that Cyndi was to be my wife. I struggled with this. I mean Cyndi was my friend we never even dated. However, it didn’t take me long to agree with God and I asked Cyndi to marry me at my best friend’s wedding reception. We went from being friends to engaged and then married. I fell in love with Cyndi from the inside out. Being friends first I got to know her without the clutter a dating relationship can bring. I got to know her, so how could I not fall in love with her.
Our first year of marriage was great! Everything that I imagined it could be and more, until, Cyndi discovered my secret: I was addicted to pornography. She was crushed at this revelation, not knowing what do or who to talk to or how to handle me now. I swore that I would never do it again. After all, I really didn’t have a problem and I could stop “anytime I wanted.” Well I didn’t stop. In fact, it got worse. Another pattern developed during my marriage. I would look at porn; my wife would find out, “Honey, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” She would forgive me and I thought “ok, we’re good now.” Then I would look at porn again, get caught, apologize, do it again, wash, rinse, repeat. This cycle went on for years and with each incident I was pushing my wife away with hurt and betrayal, the one I was supposed to love.
Cyndi and I found ourselves years later, moving to FL with 2 beautiful girls now, to be youth pastors at a small church, and I mean small. Our youth group of 10, half the size of the whole church. I struggled greatly here; I was still looking at porn and trying to be a youth pastor. It seemed to get worse when I was stressed out and I was always stressed out here. So here was a familiar pattern developing again in my life as a youth pastor.
I would teach the youth about God, and look at porn. Take them on youth trips, but still look at porn. Tell the teen boys not to get involved with porn because it was “bad” for you. And then go and look at porn. Yeah, can you say “hypocrite” boys and girls? I think you can! I had become a hypocrite and had failed at being a youth pastor, I was failing as a husband to my wife and I was failing God. I’m angry and picking fights with Cyndi and blaming everyone and everything else for all my problems, not even stopping to consider that the problem could be me.
After 3 ½ years in FL (we had 3 girls now), I lost my full-time job, I was being paid $200/month from the church (small remember), and now I went hardcore into porn. I watched porn daily, feeding this addiction with everything I could find on the internet, nothing became off-limits to me. When Cyndi found out an apology wasn’t going to do it this time. She had, had it!! And she went ballistic on me. Yelling, screaming, and throwing everything at me but the steak knives (thank God). I was, for the first time truly afraid of her, not because she was so angry with me, (although that was scary) but because I had finally pushed her too far. All the hurt, betrayal, anger from over the years had finally come out. She told me “you need help; you got to talk to someone; because you can’t have porn and us too.” So I sought out help, and came across this program called Celebrate Recovery at a Baptist church, I went, not sure what to expect. But at this point I need help and was willing to do whatever it took to get it.
God works out everything for the good of those that love Him.
I was the only one in Celebrate Recovery 101 that night. I know that was God because I wouldn’t have dared open up if there had been any one else there. When asked “Why are you here tonight?” I started, to my own disbelief, pour my heart out to this guy I never met before. I told him everything about my addiction and the hurts in me and to my wife, I just told him everything. This was the first time I told someone. Then my greatest fear DID NOT HAPPEN! I wasn’t rejected; he simply placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me. I returned home and told Cyndi how great it was and for 3 months I went.
I found a job in Atlanta soon after and we moved back, but I stopped going to Celebrate Recovery (big mistake). Cyndi encouraged me to find another to attend but I always found some excuse. After all I went for 3 months; I had this under control by now. Well I didn’t have it under control and porn returned with its ugly cousins, shame and guilt. I wasn’t caught this time by Cyndi, but by the company I was working for. I was in a company van with a tracking GPS parked at a porn shop. When a person is addicted, common sense goes out the window. I almost lost my job and Cyndi. Our relationship was utterly broken. I saw the love in her eyes for me die out. I had hit my rock bottom.
We were attending Victory World Church and I heard that a Celebrate Recovery was starting there. I was invited to serve on the worship team and I started a step study as soon as possible. I wanted this addiction gone. I wanted freedom, I wanted hope. During the step study a revelation occurred to me. The Holy Spirit uncovered a repressed memory from my childhood at a time I was in a safe place to deal with it. At around the age of 6 I was sexually assaulted by 2 teenage boys in my neighborhood. I was dumbstruck for the remainder of the day. God, why did you let me remember this? I wondered, because God doesn’t do anything without a reason. God helped me to remember the abuse to put the pieces in place and restore my fractured heart. My addiction to porn, anger and rejection were all tied to this assault. It all began to make sense. Why I distrusted men, my anger towards my older brother, my anger at my dad for not being there to protect me when I was the most vulnerable, this overwhelming need to be accepted by my siblings, and my fear of rejection. I wanted to be free from porn, but God wanted me to experience complete freedom.
Galatians 5:1- It is for freedom I have set you free.
Because of Celebrate Recovery there has been a restoration in my life. My daily walk with Christ is better and in fact, genuine. My relationship with Cyndi has been restored and is better than ever. The love in her eyes that had been dying out before was back and we now chase each other around the house like newlyweds again. Cyndi and I went on to renew our wedding vows. We now have celebrated 2 anniversaries since our renewal (a total of 12 years of marriage) and 4 months after our renewal we found out we were going to have another baby, our blessing from God on our renewed life.
After going through the step study and continuing in CR I made the choice to serve as a part of the Landing, the teen support portion of CR, working with the High School boys. My hope is that by my being open and honest about what has happened to me that this will help them to either avoid the trap of porn, or they will find in me someone they can trust and be open with.
I have forgiven my brother for all he did. I have forgiven my abusers as well. CR has given me the tools and structure I needed to find freedom and daily victory over my addiction. “It works, if you work it” isn’t just a saying for those of us who come to CR, it’s a truth. I can now see there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train! I have a hope for my future and not despair.
I know God has always been there. God will always continue to be there. Celebrate Recovery will always be a part of my life. I am not a hopeless case.