Pastor Shares How he Recovered After Sexual Addiction ‘Destroyed’ his Ministry

Exposing the truth was just the first step to redemption.

by John Doyel

I joined the ranks of fallen pastors in 2005. I will spare you the details of my fall; we have heard similar stories too many times already. This is the story of how God used the train wreck I made of my life and marriage and gave me a new calling to help Christian men, pastors, and their churches who are struggling with sexual brokenness.

Like many other men, I was exposed to porn when I was 11. My dad had magazines in the nightstand next to his bed so it was acceptable in our home. The images from those magazines were burned into my brain, and it felt powerful to see them and to become aroused. My brother and I both had porn of our own as soon as we turned 18.

I learned at an early age to use porn to make myself feel good, and after serving as a youth pastor for 6 years and a senior pastor for 20, this would come back to destroy my ministry. As I strained under weight of pastoring a large church and trying to prioritize my marriage and four kids, I began using porn more and more to escape. I needed to get my fix—although it did not fix anything.

It didn’t stop there. On September 9, 2005, three men from my board came to my office to confront me about a rumor they had heard: that I was involved in an affair with a woman in our church. The rumor was true. I was so ready to leave my double life that I prepared to give an open confession no matter the consequences. I knew I needed to come clean and allow God to do whatever he wanted to do. Had I been a better man with more courage, I would have sought help earlier instead of allowing my sexual addiction to grow deeper and darker for over eight years.

When the truth was exposed, I lost my ministry, destroyed my career, and made my education worthless. I worried I would lose my marriage and my relationships with my kids. However, due to the spiritual maturity of my gracious and forgiving wife, a lot of counseling, and a commitment to walk this out, God carried us through the years of healing.

I Confessed to My Wife and Children

Several things were instrumental in helping me through the early days of recovery. My resignation happened on a Friday. I spent the weekend confessing to my wife and sharing the truth with our kids. I told my wife she could ask me anything and I would tell her the truth. I told our kids that I had been unfaithful to their mother, had become addicted to pornography, and had lost my job. If they wanted to know anything more they could ask me. None of them did, but all of them talked with their mother.

I was in a deep depression and barely able to function. Having struggled with depression since 1986, I was no stranger to its horror, but this was the deepest and darkest hole in which I had ever been. Fear, shame, and anxiety came in constant waves, and I was unable to sleep for a couple of nights. On Monday I went to my doctor and told him what had happened. He doubled my medications of Wellbutrin and Zoloft. It took me about two weeks to feel their effect.

I Took Drastic Measures

My wife and I created some ground rules for recovery. There had to be barriers in place in order for me to stay in the house and continue in the marriage. First, I was to have absolutely no contact with any of the women with whom I had affairs. No calls. No texts. No emails or meetings. Any contact they made to reach out to me, I reported to her as soon as possible. Also, I would have no contact with other women, no pornography, and no masturbation.

About a month into this new lifestyle, one of the women called me on my cell phone. When I heard her voice on the line, I quickly told her to never call me again and hung up. After work I told my wife of the call, gave her my phone, and suggested we switch phones for a few days. After that I got a new number for my phone. This was a pain, but it helped show my wife that I would do whatever it took to stop. I had no passwords on my phone or on the computer. She was given full access to everything.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today: “Pastors”

John Doyel is a former senior pastor living in Columbus, Ohio, who is now in his 13th year of recovery from sexual brokenness and addiction. He ministers as a lay person in his church and helped start many 180 Recover ministries across the country.

If you or someone you know is looking for help with sexual addiction or you would like to start a sexual addiction recovery ministry at your church, visit or contact John at [email protected]