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Porn-Addicted Pastor Shares His Past

Fixated on pornography, one married Kansas City pastor led a double life for decades. He tells The Fix about his recovery.

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Dr. T.C. Ryan tells his story to help others.
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By Valerie Tejeda

10/04/12

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Former pastor Dr. T. C. Ryan's struggle with pornography began as a young teen, when he discovered his mother’s lingerie magazines, and continued for over 40 years. He's now authored a candid memoir, Ashamed No More. “I stumbled unknowingly into compulsive sexual behavior in my adolescence," he tells The Fix. "Sexual interest and exploration are part of normal human development, but for me the stimulation of arousal and gratification became my essential method of coping with my life.” As a married man, and a pastor for 20 years in Kansas City, he lived a double life, consumed with guilt which in turn fed his compulsive cycle. Technology escalated his behavior. “When I stumbled into Internet pornography, I hated myself,” he says. “I promised God that I would never do this again, and I meant it. I honestly thought, 'That’s it, I’m done. I’ve turned the corner.' So the next time, the shame was even greater." Ryan says that sexual addictions—particularly to online porn—are very common among pastors because of the nature of ministry. Hearing people's darkest secrets all day long is emotionally draining, he explains. So many pastors get burned out and seek escape and relief. Internet pornography is always accessible, and—unlike addictions to drugs, alcohol, or food—there are no externally visible consequences of using, so it’s easy to hide.

“Sexual issues are only symptoms of deeper issues,” says Ryan. “Sexual brokenness is an indicator that there is some disconnect in the way I see myself and the way I interact with others. At the heart of it, sexually compulsive behavior indicates an attachment disorder; we have fundamental core beliefs that are flawed and need to be identified and reworked and thinking patterns that need to be redeveloped.” Ryan stepped down as a senior pastor to focus on his recovery, although he still preaches about his experiences: "My experience of freedom from the compulsive behaviors came after a confluence of several factors, including a particular therapy, the death of my mother and me leaving ministry.” He and his wife hope that telling his story will encourage others to get help. “I hope that from my journey people might learn that we are all sexual beings, and that is good; that in our society we use sexuality to market and to entertain, but for a lot of us we don’t learn how to use our sexuality in healthy, self-integrated ways,” he says. “No matter how we might get confused or messed up about sex, there is help, there is a way forward to healthy sexual living. We need the truth, we need each other, and occasionally we need professional help.” He adds, “Don’t be afraid of the journey to recovery. Don’t hold back. It will take everything out of you—which it must if it’s going to work—and will give back to you a different and a better life.” 

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