The Third Coincidence

Porn is a four-letter word.

Like other four-letter words, it gets used in regrettable fits.
No one says pornography anymore.

Porn is the internet’s darkest magic.

It is everywhere and nowhere all at once. It is the thing everyone views, but no one talks about. I’m tired of staying quiet on the subject.

I wrote a post called “Porn” a year ago. When the last school year started, I took it down, not wanting to draw my name into any unintended controversy.

When I wrote it, I accurately predicted something: “The title of this post just amped up my visibility on the web by 175,000 percent.” Since then, and in spite of the fact that my blog post on porn is no longer live, more people have found me through searching “mundane porn” than any other key term. Those who searched for that and clicked on the miracle of the mundane’s link must have been wildly disappointed. Most people don’t search the internet for miracles.

I’m bringing the p-word back because it has something to do with the third story of coincidence I am about to relay.

I had to make restraint of porn viewing a part of my recovery. I’ve found that refraining from viewing it improves my energy, my serenity, my thought processes, my writing. In fact, every aspect of my life improves when I choose not to watch it. This has been true in my experience. I understand experiences vary. For me, porn is a false sense of control in area of life, lust, that, along with anger, tops my list of character defects.

What makes porn a difficult thing to work on is how inappropriate the subject is to bring up. I argue there is nothing in the modern human experience that is at once more acceptable and taboo than porn. But, in the words of my friend Damien, “You blog about what you want to. It’s your blog.” So that’s what I’m doing—dropping two four-letter words in a sentence: fuck it, let’s talk about porn.

What does any of this have to do with coincidences? To me, everything.

Were it not for a coincidence in early recovery, I would not be here writing about sex and porn and other topics affecting my sobriety and quality of life—I would have never discovered the miracle of the mundane.

When I left rehab to go out into the world on my own, I had two things on my mind: finding a job and dating a woman.

What made my obsession over money and sex difficult was the advice from counselors and peers alike that the two reasons why people relapse in early recovery always stem from money and sex.

But I was sober and feeling good and moving to Portland, Oregon, a city and part of the country I had never visited before.

It was also late spring—a difficult time of year to live anywhere with my Neanderthal brain, the time of year when the layers come off.

Now, while I was newly sober and naive about what it took to stay sober, I did have one thing going for me: I knew prayer worked. I’ve blogged about my experience with prayer often on this blog. Click here to see all posts on the subject. It worked in my life. It worked me from the inside. It replaced old notions with new ones. It guided me, often through coincidence, to the right decision for my future.

So, while it was late spring in Portland, and my eyes were wondering uncontrollably as I walked the streets looking for work, I had prayer on my side. Turns out that was enough.

My prayers were simple.

“Guide me God,” type stuff. The general prayer of “Thy will be done” type of thing, although I always say, “Your will be done,” because I only like hearing “Thy” whilst I watcheth Shakespeare.

Guided, I went to a meeting on my first day in town. The first thing my lizard brain did, of course, was scan the room for woman to speak to after the meeting. Nothing wrong with making friends, I thought.

Very clever.

These were the types of things I’d soon have to fend off my sponsor about.

I couldn’t get a cup of coffee at that first meeting in Portland without a man mentioning that sex was the cause of his relapse. He described how he met a woman. How that woman became more important than his relationship with a higher power. And how he went out.

His tale was cautionary enough for me to sip my coffee, listen, and leave when the meeting was over without letting my predatory instincts get the better of me.

While I didn’t find a job in that first week, I ended up getting work—at a Plaid Pantry for all you Pacific Northwesterners out there—I did get to a meeting everyday after praying every morning.

I was exploring different meetings, asking people for suggestions of good meetings for young single guys such as myself, and being regretfully referred to men’s meetings and solemn young people’s meetings.

A funny thing happened at the next meeting I went to on the following day. Can you imagine the topic? “Sex in early recovery,” of course. A man at a men’s meeting shared about going a year without having sexual relations with his wife, while he, “examined his conduct.” The nerve of this man, I thought, to speak about the same topic I heard just yesterday. Although, I did admit, it was a strange coincidence.

I’m not sure exactly how to convince you what I’m about to write is true. Maybe you’ll just take my word for it? I’ll provide some evidence to support my claim if it will help.

Third meeting. Friday night. Young People’s meeting. Meaning young clean and sober single women everywhere. Man leads. Main message: “Don’t get into a relationship in your first year.”


Three meetings, one message. Coincidence?

Yes, and a meaningful one. I received the message. I did what my counselors suggested and stayed out of relationships for a year.

The proof?

The evidence that coincidences lead to meaningful results?

Year One: Stay sober, stay celibate.
Year Two: Meet my future wife.
Year Three: Marry her.
Year Four: Buy House (and dog).
Year Five: Son is born.
Year Six: Wife enters graduate school; continues to amaze me in her beauty and brilliance.
Year Seven: Daughter is born.
Year Eight: Make pornography a part of my program.
Year Nine: See and understand and come to respect women better each day.
Year Ten: Watch my daughter’s personality burst on to the scene and begin to imagine her future.

Today: Publish post on porn and the importance of vigilant sexual conduct in recovery.


27 Responses to “The Third Coincidence

  • Very relevant. There are no coincidences, right? Only God working undercover! 🙂

    • I like that. God working undercover. Haven’t heard that one! I have heard that coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous. Anyway, thanks for dropping in and giving something else to think about.

  • Colin Chatburn
    2 months ago

    thy shakespeare dude used to open his play’s with sex,withcraft(religion) or murder to grab the audiences attention. matters have not changed in attention grabbing.

  • This is such a hard topic to write about. I remember your first post. As hard as it is to admit it, I was drawn into porn for awhile. Not hubs. Luckily, I was able to stop before it became an addiction.

    • I’m glad you’ve looked at that sort of behavior. I don’t think it’s healthy. While people could argue for its benefits, and I can’t speak for everyone, it does not do me any good.

  • Exceptional! It is the one sin that’s almost never addressed at church. Your timeline is evidence of what WORKING THE PROGRAM can look like. I’m grateful and proud to know you.

  • Thank you Mark. I will now alawys couple (no pun intended) the word porn with the word mundane… and I will think of you. Not an easy piece to publish my friend, but I may take the tip and up my ratings… great piece!

    • Go for it! Publish a post on porn for all the unknowingly and soon-to-be disappointed! Haha. I guarantee your SEO will skyrocket.

  • Absolutely no coincidences. God had you right in the palms of His hands and was loving you and protecting you and providing everything you needed, right where you were at. And to your credit….you always had the free will to jump out of His hands, but instead you stayed put, and you allowed yourself to grow and get strong and to look at your insides so so honestly and deal with what you saw there. And yes, having baby girl’s changes everything. Having children changes everything, but especially those precious girls that we want to be cherished and honored and respectfully loved in this world of #metoo campaigns. I too remember your first post and thought you were so brave to tackle that subject.

    • Thanks Annette!
      Thanks for reading that first one! It’s cool to imagine that people read every single post. I do my best to get to all of yours, for example. I know how hard it is. Thank you for your reaction. We are very similar in our approaches to faith. It’s always good to converse.

  • I was married when I got sober and I can’t imagine my husband would have been super keen on a year of celibacy. Lol

    • I didn’t believe it when I heard it either. For the married, I can’t imagine doing it now. I was glad I took a year off from relationships when I did to sort it all out.

      • I think that is by far the best advice for anyone not attached.
        Give yourself a year to learn who you are and what you like.
        Because when we know those things we stop looking for someone else to tell us!

        • I’ve found that exact lesson to be true. We have to clear away the wreckage. Learn to “love ourselves” first. However trite that sounds.

  • Grateful for pacts! That’s all I’ll say. Really well-written post, Mark. (Now, just as long as you don’t get “Mark Goodson Porn” as one of your search topics. – DDM

  • Many think God isn’t listening. It’s the other way around. Great piece.

  • Really honest, courageous post to write. Fearless writing is the best!

    • Thanks for this Matt! I recognize it is coming from someone who is always in a fearless pursuit of words and ideas. So it’s really appreciated.

  • A very contentious subject, you approached it with candour and grace.

    Porn has always been around but the way that it’s going now feels sinister and scary to me. There is a lot of violent stuff out there and I fear for my son…he will be faced with it…The effects of viewing some of the more violent stuff can scar the brain surely. He is still way too young but I do worry about the future.

    • I worry too.

      It’s too much for those young minds. But a lot of it is too much for any mind.

      It shouldn’t be so contentious should it? A lot of times I think it is contentious because people horde and hide the privilege of using it. What if it were villainized the way cigarettes were?\

      Always good to read your thoughts, Hurrah. Thank you.

  • Mark…I just discovered your blog this morning, and love your what you have shared. As a recovering porn and sex addict, I have experienced so many “coincidences”…I call them tender mercies. We really don’t, and really can’t, understand the depth of His love for each one of us, but I know He’s involved. Recovery is a spiritual experience.

    • Chris-

      I’m so glad you discovered the blog. And that you decided to write me. It’s not easy to admit these things. But once we do, it gets so much better.

      Without porn, I can honestly say that I am living a much richer, more spiritual existence. It’s my truth. I would want this sort of freedom for everyone. God is behind them all, no doubt. I was speaking with a colleague yesterday about coincidences. It’s proof that God takes an active role in our lives. Which is a wild thought. The creator of the universe, caring about us.

      Hope to hear from you again.


  • Great post, Mark. Very courageous to talk about it in the open. I always found it funny that the program talks so much about sex and sex harms, etc. and yet the topic is rarely spoken about at meetings. It touches a nerve for some reason, or perhaps it’s shame. It makes people uncomfortable for sure.

    But you speak of it candidly here, and look at the reaction. I remember writing about it on the blog and not getting many responses, so I am glad you got some here!

    Porn was something that would come and go for me, especially in early recovery, but I didn’t like the secrecy of it, the shame it would evoke. I also felt like a hypocrite talking about spirituality then squirreling around to watching porn. It didn’t grab a hold of me like drinking did. It was one of those things I was grasping at to replace the hole that booze left. Eventually after the mental obsession broke, I found myself less interested in the porn.

    I agree that things are clearer, more focused, etc. when I am not involved with porn. I also feel better about myself, and harbour no secrecy, etc.

    Great post, dude!

    • I’ve had such similar experiences, Paul. It’s no surprise. Our experiences are paralleled in so many ways. It has made for a great experience.

      It is a difficult subject. And I agree that the fact that it’s a difficult subject is in and of itself, an interesting subject. Here’s to the people willing to have it!

      The clarity of mind is enough proof I need that using it is bad for me.

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