By Marisha Darneaud
Jerome Alexander is a recovering ‘drug’ addict. But it’s not ‘meth’, cocaine or even ecstasy. Really, it’s not even a new drug but actually a social ill. It’s porn.
I met Jerome at the Youth 2000 Prayer Festival that was held at Holy Faith Convent, Couva where he was a guest speaker. I asked him if he felt comfortable about sharing his story, knowing that people will recognise him now everywhere he goes, but he chooses to focus on helping people rather than worry about people’s opinions of him.
Jerome is 31 years old, has two brothers and one sister and comes from a conservative family. At first glance, he may seem a bit shy and reserved. He hails from St James and currently lives in Arouca.
Jerome started his secondary school education at St Anthony’s College and then studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. This avid footballer likes to hike and socialise. So how did this young unassuming man get addicted to porn?
“It all started when I was 12 years old. During the school week, I was not allowed to look at television but on weekends, I was allowed to stay up a bit late. I stumbled upon porn by accident. One Friday night, I was looking at cable television when for the first time I saw a couple kissing…It was a very brief scene but it got me interested to see more.”
“My parents never spoke to me about sex,” he said. “My parents probably thought that since I was active in ministries like St Vincent de Paul and Legion of Mary in St Mary’s parish, I would have learned about sex education from the leaders etc.”
On another occasion, Jerome was bored and wanted to see a movie, so he went to his older brother’s room to see what movies he had in his video collection. During his search, he accidentally stumbled on an X-rated film and watched it out of curiosity. More viewing of other similar movies soon followed.
“My brother never found out that I borrowed his films; I never told him and placed all items back in their original position.” The secret habit continued for a few years without anyone ever finding out.
From video cassettes he moved to watching on cable television, then to the internet. In the early days when homeowners needed to ‘dial up’, Jerome hatched a plan. “I arranged to get home early from school before everyone else so that I was able to surf the internet alone. I later quickly learnt how to delete the history. I normally saw some still pictures and some short videos. In school, my colleagues and I talked about what we saw online. However, I would have rather looked at porn than have sex and most of my friends were sexually active.”
When Jerome turned 16, he went on a retreat led by Opus Dei and it was here he first learnt about the dangers of porn. Still he continued. Fast forward to his early twenties, Jerome began growing frustrated by his addiction. He had several mentors who tried to help him but he chose not to listen.
At the age of 26, he met his first girlfriend in the fashion industry. “My mom introduced me to modelling through a well-known stylist, creative designer and fashion coordinator. I modelled for different carnival bands and other events for five years. I never discussed my addiction with my girlfriend and I doubt she knew anything. Our relationship lasted for nine months since we had different lifestyle values. I took about two years to get over the relationship. It was tough though.”
Jerome seriously began seeking assistance a year later. “I thought I could have done it on my own but I couldn’t. I hated feeling tired of the thoughts. I began some online research and read testimonies from some people who gave faceless interviews or had their voices altered to protect their identities. I then discovered some research done by a renowned mentor/life coach called Tony Litster. Tony had an online nine-month programme to assist persons with addictions and participants were able to make live calls to speak to him. Part of the programme even involved changing one’s diet as certain foods triggered a chemical imbalance in the brain!”
Jerome also had to practise a regiment system. “I needed to get over this addiction and was amazed to find out about the numerous triggers that addicts can have. Everyone’s situation may be different but the triggers can be similar. I know many people who had failed marriages due to porn addictions. Even certain scents and sceneries would have triggered a memory of a movie scene. Yes, even some scents like perfume etc can be associated with porn! The road to recovery is not for the faint of the heart.”
As part of his ongoing progress, Jerome partnered with Fight the New Drug (https://fightthenewdrug.org), an American anti-pornography non-profit organisation, founded in 2009. The organisation uses science, facts and personal experiences to help raise the awareness of the harmful effects of pornography.
While the group is not faith based, members do discuss prayer and their faith in their personal experiences. For Jerome, he uses prayer, his Christian faith and Bible verses to help him on a daily basis. His favourite verses are Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, oh God”, Proverbs 23:7: “For what he is really thinking about is himself: ‘Eat and drink,’ he tells you, but his heart is not with you” and Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Jerome believes porn addiction is a spiritual battle and the road to recovery has drawn him closer to God. “Many people either choose not to acknowledge the dangers of porn or don’t know them. Some people feel that they can’t develop an addiction but we do live in a very sexualised society where sex or sexuality is used to sell items.”
Jerome is dating again and met his girlfriend on a retreat where he shared his testimony. She is very understanding and supportive. His testimony is one that all young people should hear. Statistics may be limited in our country but there is no doubt that many are addicted to porn.
I want to wish Jerome all the best in his ministry. Let us all come together to fight this drug. Contact Jerome at email@example.com