Porn was my escape from bullying
Andrew Hart was dominated by his addiction until a trip to the Gauntlet on scholarship unlocked the key to his freedom.
At almost 10 years old, my parents packed my brothers and I in a car and moved all of us to Florence, South Carolina.
I had left all of my friends and family back in New York and had to start at a new school in a new state.
I was constantly picked on and bullied because of my accent, how I looked, and even just for being a "yankee," and I was told to go back to where I came from.
Every time I messed up, I told myself that it was the last time.
A Slave To My Addiction
It was tough for me, and by the time I got to high school, I was not happy with myself or my situation. I developed an addiction to pornography. I found it as an escape from whatever was going on in life.
It started out small, but by the time I started high school, it controlled my life. Every time I messed up, I told myself that it was the last time and that I would never do it again.
I thought there was no way God could ever forgive me, and I beat myself up over it every single day.
It was such a struggle and burden in my life and caused so much pain in my heart that it led to me developing depression.
All I had heard about before was an angry and vengeful God.
A New Understanding
I grew up in an Irish Roman Catholic family, but we didn't go to church that much. I thought it was the most boring thing, and I wanted to be anywhere but in church.
But my parents were looking for a new church when they found NewSpring online. They immediately invited my brothers and I to attend the following week, Easter Sunday 2012.
I heard an incredible message about becoming a new creation in Christ, and I responded during the invitation. I wasn't sure what I was responding to or why, but I felt something pushing me to it.
All I had heard about before was an angry and vengeful God, not the loving, merciful, and forgiving God that I so desperately needed. I eventually gave my life to Christ on August 26, 2012.
I thought that the only way to be fully forgiven by God was through my good works.
Belonging Wasn’t Enough
Did my life get better immediately and was I always happy after I met Jesus? Absolutely not. I was still heavily struggling with my addiction and depression, and I was still in a bad place.
But two very good friends of mine, Shayla and Raquel, invited me to start coming and helping load in and set up for KidSpring.
They pushed me to get up early and be at church every week and grow closer in my walk with Christ. And it honestly started working, which to this day I cannot thank them enough for.
Then I started volunteering in production, and it was there that I met some of the most amazing and Godly people I know. I felt like I had found my second family and a place where I belonged.
I finally felt the weight of that sin lift off my shoulders.
Confessing My Sin
But I couldn't get over my addiction. I thought that the only way I could forgive myself and be fully forgiven by God was through my good works — if I read my Bible as often as I could and served like Christ did, as often as humanly possible.
Nothing was working, and I started to give up on myself. However, Bobby Moore, the Florence Fuse pastor at the time, didn't give up on me and got me a scholarship to go to Gauntlet 2014.
It was at the Gauntlet where I did as God commanded and confessed my addiction and sin out loud to everyone in the room during small group.
I finally felt the weight of that sin lift off my shoulders. The problem did not go away immediately, but I can now honestly say that my old addiction is behind me, and I live in freedom from it.
God can turn things around.
Using My Story
When I look back, I’m reminded of all of the people who fought for me to get me to where I am now. That makes me want to help others feel the freedom, peace, and comfort of God that I do.
Now, I am a music industry major at Francis Marion University. As part of the Baptist Student Ministry, I am also able to lead a group of college guys who have similar experiences to me.
I didn't realize it at the time, but moving to Florence was such a blessing from God. That to me is the biggest takeaway from my story. God can turn things around and use your story to influence others in a good way.