Pornography always leads to devastation
Rarely do we think through the ramifications of sexual addiction. And pornography, while it may seem innocent, has a devasting impact on careers, finances, children, and marriages. Today on Man Talk, Vince Miller interviews former politician Paul Zunker, a regional group leader for Pure Desire Ministries. Listen as Paul shares how pornography led to a life of compounding sin that has continued to impact him over the last six years.
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Vince: This is Resolute, and Man Talk. I am Vince Miller, your founder and host. And today we’re in a series on sexual addiction. Today we’re interviewing Paul Zunker.
Gentlemen, welcome to Man Talk, by Resolute. If this is your first time tuning in, then thank you for joining us. Here at Man Talk, we discuss every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – 15 minute topics relevant to Christian men. This is because at Resolute, it is our mission to disciple and develop men to lead.
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Well guys, today I’m excited to introduce to you, Paul Zunker. This is a guy that I’m proud to call friend. He comes from many different fields of ministry experience. Today he works with Pure Desire Ministries. And also with Grace Church in Eden Prairie. This is a guy who’s been helping guys to find freedom from sexual addiction. You can find more out about Paul Zunker at paulzunker.org. I hope you’ll visit his website today. Paul, welcome to the show.
Paul: Thanks Vince, glad to be here with you.
Vince: So I – I’m just really excited to have begun a relationship with you, Paul. Because I know that you’ve been through some challenges in your own life, as it regards – sexual compulsion, sexual addiction. And I know that you have felt called to share this story with many other men. And I think men need to hear your story, Paul. And here’s why. Is because – I think men are afraid of really opening up about the struggles that they have personally, right?
And they face these challenges, and there’s so much shame, and there’s so much fear – that they often don’t know where to turn. I’m wondering, can you just give us a brief look at some of the challenges that you’ve faced in your own life with sexual addiction? And just maybe a little of the backstory, so guys can get to know you.
Paul: Yeah, I would love to. As I was sharing with you – I was a music guy for a long time, and that was a direction I was going to go in my life. And God had other plans that he hadn’t quite revealed to me yet. But I think – my story, I don’t – I don’t know if it’s that much different than the stories that a lot of guys have early on in life. And the wrestle with impure thoughts and looking at stuff online or in magazines that they shouldn’t be.
But that’s kinda where my story started, back when the internet kind of first started making a big run and AOL came out. I was a 13 or 14 or so year old boy and looking at pictures and stuff you shouldn’t. But you’re waiting 20 minutes for one line of picture to come across the screen.
Vince: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Paul: And 20 minutes later, you got a picture there. And it sounds kinda funny to talk about it now. But those are the images that are kind of seared and burned into my brain as the first pornographic images that I saw. And they’re fading and lightening up over time. God’s doing a good work in me, in pulling those out. But those really stuck there. And that was the beginning of the journey of becoming addicted to pornography, for me. And going through high school – entering high school. Masturbation comes into it. And you put those 2 things together, and it really becomes kind of the deadly cocktail there, and–
Vince: Yeah. And I like that. I like that you’re saying that it’s a deadly cocktail. Because you’re combining a way you’re thinking with a physical activity.
Vince: And most men don’t understand the powerful cocktail or combination of those 2 thoughts and behaviors, right?
Vince: They’re very, very powerful.
Paul: And that’s where the addiction comes form. It’s not necessarily just what you’re looking at. It’s what’s happening in your brain as you’re looking at it. And as you introduce masturbation to it – you have different chemicals, the dopamines and things that get released in your brain. And that’s what creates the addiction over time, and physically changes your brain. That you’ve got to do a lot of work to get back from. But we can talk about all the fun neurochemistry stuff later on, but-
Paul: As it did with a lot of guys – it just ebbed and flowed, and kinda binged and purged over the years – and I’d looked at it quite a bit. And then had quite a bit of time off where I didn’t. And got married and figured, “Well that’ll take care of it.” ‘Cause I’ll have a proper place to express my sexuality within my marriage biblically. And that worked pretty well for a little while. But then – that just doesn’t solve the problem. When you have any kind of addiction, especially a sexual addiction with pornography it’s – you’re using it to medicate over pain and things from the past.
Vince: I – I’ve got to accentuate this. Because it’s so honest, what you just said. Many guys think that if they were dealing with compulsions and addictions before marriage, they think the context of marriage is going to fix it.
Vince: There’s got to be something faulty there about that, right?
Vince: And you discovered the fault of it. It’s – it’s basically – you’re putting a Band-Aid on a problem that has already existed, right? You’re really not finding a solution, you’re just finding a new context. And then once you get bored, you turn right back to the same old behavior patterns, right?
Paul: And there’s new things in your marriage that come up – arguments and different hurts there, that drive you into medicating that over as well. So if you haven’t cut off the roots of the pain and the junk in the past, you’re just going to be adding to that, and adding to that. So – and that’s what happened for me. Is I didn’t deal with the roots of some of my pain in the past. There was some sexual abuse when I was a child, from a neighbor. Other things like that, that – they’re big deals. And a lot of times, us – as guys, will just say, “Well that happened 20, 30 years ago. It’s not that big a deal, I’m just not going to deal with it. Fine, I’m fine. It’s not a big deal.”
Paul: But it really is. And you have to deal with that stuff, and face it and bring it up.
Vince: Yeah. We cannot turn a blind eye to it, is what you’re saying.
Paul: No, no. And ultimately we’ve got to lay it down for the cross. Which is where all of our healing comes from. But we still have to address it. And for me, getting married – I owned my own business for a number of years. I had my own office, and that was kinda my place. My wife and my kids just stay out of there. And for a guy who was addicted to pornography, that’s not really a good thing. When you have your own space that nobody goes into. And my wife didn’t know technology at all, let alone being able to look at a browser history. So at the height of my addiction, Vince – it would just be hours every day that I would be looking at this stuff.
And I always say, one of the reasons I do what I do is to help guys get off of that path while there’s still time. Because like any addiction – eventually, you need more and more and more of your drug, in order to get satisfied. And with sexual sin – especially pornography, that’s where we see a lot of guys spill things over into their real life. Or they’ll have an affair, or they’ll look at illegal pornography online – or something that’s the next level. That gives them the next rush.
And what happened with me, it was about 6 and a half years ago or so – it came out that I touched my step daughter. When she was about 15 or so, that came out. And that was the crux of everything for me. And she told my wife what had happened, and we separated immediately. Which is what she should’ve done. And that began the long process for me, of my recovery. But it began the process of the family imploding too as well. So for me, it was many years of things that were done in secret finally coming to the surface. So I had this sense of, “Oh man, everything I’ve been hiding for years is now out.” The pornography addiction came out. But on the flip side of that, my family was now devastated. So there was 2 different things going on there, but–
Vince: So you, you started to feel a bit better. But everybody around you was devastated?
Paul: Right. And that’s what guys who have their disclosure with their wives – when they get busted the first time, a lot of times they feel like, “Okay, I’m just going to tell her absolutely everything.” And you feel good, ’cause you’ve just told secrets you’ve never told anybody. And you feel like, “Oh man, finally I’m getting it out.” But now she’s had an A-bomb dropped on her, ’cause it’s things that she was – wasn’t expecting at all, so–
Paul: When we talk about the healing and the curriculum and the pre-desire curriculum, we can talk about the right way of doing that.
Paul: ‘Cause there is a right way to do disclosure. But when all of my stuff came out – like I said, we separated. And I was the Chairman of the Republican Party in Carver County at the time. So my thing went down the legal road, and my story blew up because I was a political figure. So the stuff that I had did, and the fact that I had a pornography addiction was all over the evening news and in the newspapers – and really, really blew up. And honestly Vince, that was God’s way of dealing with the pride that was in my life. And if that part hadn’t happened, if it wasn’t as public as it was – I don’t know if he would’ve gotten me to the place where he really needed me to get to to be broken before him.
But the long story short, I spent 4 months in jail in Carver County because of that. I’m still on probation because of that as well. And the marriage still is really struggling as a result. God’s done a great work in my kid’s life. I have 2 kids. One is our 18 year old daughter, and 16-year-old son. And then my step-daughter’s 21 now. Really God’s done an amazing thing there. And his – the relationship will never be the same as it was.
Paul: But from time to time, she’ll still call me dad – in between calling me Paul, which is fine. But the fact that she calls me anything.
Paul: And that we talk, and that we’re able to go bowling every once in a while. And it’s just a testament to her, but also to what God’s done in her life. And it’s – I hate the components of my story. I always say that I would never – given the chance – would never do the stuff I did again. But I would not change where I’m at right now with where God’s brought me through all of this stuff for anything. ‘Cause I would never be where I’m at, unless God really shook me down like he did.
Paul: And brought me through that valley.
Vince: Yeah, I think guys – Paul – don’t understand how we build up this edifice of pride or hubris in our life. And that we spend a lot of time constructing it. And it’s really behind walls that we hide all this pride. And sometimes it takes an act of God, unfortunately – that is very painful, is very destructive to us and to people around us – to show us the beauty of his grace, love, mercy and forgiveness. Which of course you’ve experienced. But of course – with that, there’s all the ramifications of all those things. And you’ve already addressed this a little bit. But some of it has to do with how we’ve put things together in our heart, in our mind, in our soul, right?
Vince: Regarding how we look at life. Maybe even how we medicate or objectify women with pornography, that leads to greater and greater and greater sin. And what I’m hearing you say is, “Hey guys, wake up. Deal with it before it’s too late. There’s a right way to deal with it. It’s going to take years to address it. You’re going to have to undo some old behavior patterns, redo some new ones. And by the way, there’s going to be shrapnel to the people around you.”
Paul: For sure.
Vince: And I’ve got to ask, did you realize the rabbit hole that you had dug for yourself when you started some of these behavior patterns?
Paul: No. I didn’t at all. And when I look back at everything now, I can see multiple times that God tried to use events in my life to get a hold of me. And I just – I either didn’t want to see it, or I was too prideful and said, “It’s fine, it’s pornography.”
Paul: “It’s not hurting anyone, I’m just looking at stuff from women who are willing to do what they’re doing anyhow.” Which is a complete lie anyway. And that it just wasn’t hurting anybody. And that’s – that – it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Because first of all, there’s a victim on the other side of that computer screen. ‘Cause pornography really is just a– It’s the documentation of sex trafficking. ‘Cause that’s why most of these women get trafficked. Is for pornography – for the production of videos or pictures, and they don’t want to be there.
Paul: So there’s a woman that every time I watch something, I’m enabling the abuse of her, by watching it. So there’s a victim there. But then, when everything come out, it’s devastating for your wife. Because she looks at it as – you’re just having another affair.
Paul: Really, and that’s what the Lord tells us. When we look at a woman with lust in our hearts, we’ve already committed adultery with her.
Paul: So yeah, there were many opportunities God gave me to get off of that path, and I chose not to. And then he used the actions I continued to do, to drop a pretty big hammer on my head.
Paul: And luckily at that point, I decided this was my time to turn. And it was my time that I was actually in jail, ’cause I wasn’t able to see my wife, wasn’t able to see the kids. And it was one night in my jail cell, when I was all by myself – that I finally came to the realization that God’s really all that I need. Even on top of my wife and my family, he’s it. And that was the turning point for me. And I’m still learning every day, even now. 6 years later, and always will be, the rest of my life. But that was my turning point, is when I finally discovered that he’s really all that I need.
Vince: I want to end right there. Because I – I think your story’s incredibly powerful. I know there’s a lot more emotion to it and time and stuff you’re even currently still thinking about and dealing with. And your story’s constantly unfolding, right?
Vince: So is mine. But I love – Paul, your heart. And I love the fact that God is awakening a work in you. I love the fact that you’re willing to share it. And I know – you’ve told me this. That you don’t like to share your story. We’re not proud of the bad things that we do.
Vince: But there’s somehow that through the cracks in our vessel that God – God’s light can be seen. In our imperfections, God’s hope and glory can be seen. And guys, as you’re listening today – I want to pray that you would just stop it. If you’re using pornography, if you’re engaging in some sort of sexual compulsion, if you’re engaging in adultery or maybe fornication in some way or prostitution. That guys, that you would just choose today to stop it. It is not a small thing to look at pornography on your computer or phone.
It’s – it is a big deal. You’re objectifying women. You are endorsing one of the greatest tools that Satan is using today, to rewire the mind of men. And we need to fight back, is what we need to do. And the way that we can fight back – is by not endorsing, not looking, by turning away, and by fighting these addictions in our life. Because Satan is using it to destroy – I think Paul would say – our families, our careers, the people that we love. And we’re helping to endorse an industry that’s bringing down the kingdom of God.
Gentlemen, this is impacting everybody in the church – from the Pastor down to the Deacon – down to the average guy, who’s attending for the very first time. And we need to stop it. So hear the Clarion call today to work hard and battle hard against this sin. And join us in it, as we decide to live pure lives. Paul, thank you for being with us today.
Paul: You bet ya, it’s my pleasure.
Vince: Well that’s the show. Thanks so much for listening. As we close, I want to remind you of 2 things. First is this. Paul Zunker is hosting a conference with Pure Desire Ministries in Prairie, Minnesota on November 10th and 11th. This is going to be a great conference that will explain to you the evils and the concerns of sexual addiction. And also provide you with resources that might help. Whether it be you or someone you love. If you want to find out more about that conference, go to beresolute.org/paulzunker. Go there today, or you can go directly to Paul Zunker’s website, at paulzunker.org. Either way, you’ll find your way to these resources, and this conference.
Also, if you’re looking for content for your men’s groups, we’ve got excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead. Check it all out at beresolute.org/free-trial. That’s free-trial. And yes, I will see to it that you get a free trial and a Resolute Men’s Study Guide to go with it.
So guys, I hope you enjoyed this podcast today of Man Talk. But please know, that the time that we spent together today is worthless, unless you choose to act on it by doing something today – and getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time for another edition of Man Talk.