This blog is written by Eric. Scott. Doerneman. Tagging in for mom this week.
Excited for this.
I was born July 4, 1993. Mom always says that was the day she lost her independence but I just LOVE fireworks. I was the first (and therefore obviously best) of her eight children.
On our podcast for today, Mom interviewed me, asking for all of the gory details behind my side of “The Whole Story of The Parenting Dare.” You can subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts!
For the full interview, please listen to our podcast:
Back to me. I like fireworks.
Square One. I’m a '90s kid. Growing up I had enough toys to be happy but not so many that I was a spoiled brat. I had an arsenal of Nerf guns as well as a probably illegal amount of Legos. Okay, maybe slightly spoiled.
The most interesting part of being a '90s kid is that we grew up in a time where technology was changing dramatically. The tech scene exploded and I remember most all of it.
I remember that noise the phone made when you tried calling someone while Dad was using the dial-up internet. I remember saving a file to a floppy and the first time I ever held a 1GB flash drive, in awe of how small it was. Mom even had a BlackBerry Pearl at one point, and yes. She hated it too. I remember the first iPod Nano; a thousand songs in your pocket! I remember the Razor phone ruling all flip phones. I remember all the crappy touch screen phones that tried to compete with the iPhone. I was one of the first in my class on Facebook and remember a friend trying to explain to me what Twitter was. I was all into gaming too. I had all the gameboys, the first Nintendo DS, and remember when the Xbox 360 and PS3 first came out.
Looking back I don’t know how else to put it other than I grew up alongside tech, maturing as it did.
I was raised in a Catholic home by strong parents. We never missed Sunday Mass and we prayed as a family before every dinner as well as in the living room some nights. I went to a Catholic school my entire life. That all being said, I never knew Jesus. I knew of him, I could recite whatever you wanted to know but I had not taken that relationship personally.
I did do the right things. I served as an altar boy a lot and I went through all the motions of the faith journey.
Now, I want to take a moment and share a little bit more about my parents. First, my mom. The woman is unique. I never had to guess what she was thinking, because it always came out of her mouth. My parents also did this odd thing were they always talked about sex. No, they would never give inappropriate details, but the kids sure knew that they were sexually active.
I know that sounds weird, all my friends thought it was, but it was honestly really cool to know that my parents still really loved each other.
So where the heck did porn come in? If I was raised in a good, solid Christian home by two parents that loved each other and loved me, why did I still get sucked into porn?!
Well, they weren’t the only thing I was listening to and learning from.
I grew up with tech! I was hearing SO many other things. Have you ever taken the time to listen to the lyrics of country or rap songs? Like any of them… Or watched any TV commercial. Or movie. Or show.
I also had friends. We talked. About everything. I knew they were seeing and hearing things, too. We always pushed the limits of jokes on the playground and as such that’s where a lot of us learned new words.
I knew I could get my curiosity fed through my wonderful new friend, Google. Google was way better than Ask Jeeves ever was. Bing didn’t exist yet and Yahoo was trash. It all started slowly. As I began searching on our unfiltered internet for beautiful women, mom and dad were none-the-wiser.
How old was I?
Hmmmm….probably around fourth grade. It was a process of exploration.
Slowly the searching became more intentional. Around seventh grade it became a much different sort of search.
My friends and I shared more of our new knowledge with each other. It was crazy.
By the time I was in 8th grade I was taught that looking at porn and masturbating was a serious sin. Like on the same level as stabbing someone.
I would like to say that I felt stuck in this place of wanting to leave and wanting to stay. But that wasn’t it… I was a good Catholic kid. I knew what was wrong and what was right. I just couldn’t figure out that when the time came I kept choosing the wrong!
In high school I joined a group of men called “The Knights of the Holy Queen” founded by Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart of Casting Nets.
Knights was huge for me. It taught me what brotherhood was and how transformative a relationship with our heavenly mother was. More than anything, Knights showed me how powerful a group of men with good intentions could really be.
One of my best friends at the time was also stuck in this struggle. We talked often and tried helping each other figure out our desires but nothing worked more than a couple days.
Now, a question you be wondering: was there anything about my behavior that would give away that I was looking at porn?
Especially not in the early years of porn use and addiction. I was just my normal kid, involved in a normal life. I was also really good at covering my tracks on the computer.
***I must add that there are behavioral cues after a porn addiction has really developed. These can be anything from periodically disappearing at home, constantly having a wiped browser history, being easily angered all the time by the smallest of things, taking showers often, or even ‘losing socks all the time’. Seriously.
If you’re reading this and think: I see a couple of those in my child… I’ll add this. There are no concrete defining characteristics however cues can start to add up and should raise an eyebrow***
Of course all of that changed the moment that my mom walked in on me viewing porn when I was a junior in high school.
It was an earth-shattering moment for me. I had been discovered. But the hardest part from my perspective was knowing that I had ruined my mom’s view of me. I worked so hard painting that I was this flawless child and all of that came crashing down.
Did I feel shame for my behavior? Well, yes, but that wasn’t a new feeling. I lived with that private shame. It was basically a part of me by then. But now I had brought my MOTHER into that place.
How would that change her view of me?
Was I going to be grounded forever and ever?
Interestingly, she didn’t talk to me right away. It took her a bit. I was deathly worried and on alert.
Finally, she sat me down. My heart was RACING. She looked at me and told me how much she loved me.
I had just been caught doing this awful thing and she said she LOVED ME? How was that even possible?
I felt like I was alone in this arena and was shocked that my mother would jump in and say, “You are not alone.”
Parents, hear me: how you, as the parent, handle your child’s fall from grace will greatly affect your child. It is the single most defining aspect in their relationship with you and their journey out of addiction. If you tell them things like, “How could you do this? I cannot believe you, I’m so disappointed in you,” etc., your reaction will cause worse effect than the actual porn use.
Side note! Mom took the time to write the steps she took to get her mind in order. Find that in this article, “Now What?”
From that moment on, our family dynamic changed. There was this dip into authenticity that I had never before seen from my parents. Mom asked real, intentional questions to all the kids. Much more than the typical, “Heyyyy how was school todayyyy.” It was more like, “Hey. You. Why do you think kids send nudes so often?” It was radical.
But I still couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t stop my habit. I wasn’t fully transparent with mom yet so she never knew the extent of it but I still felt chained back.
I graduated high school and went to K-State in the fall of 2011. I had a huge plan in my head: I would work as a Resident Assistant becoming a leader in the community, paving my way to a successful career as a people person AND engineer. Also I got my room and board paid for. Win-Win.
Well, my dream came true AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. I crushed the interviews that January. Then one dorm had a spot open that semester and asked if I could fill it! Their intent was to snag me up for next year as a few dorms were interested in my 6’ 7” figure. I became a RA as a freshman and was smiling ear to ear.
It was awesome. And I was good at it. Rolling well into my sophomore year I had a commanding presence in the dorm and then September happened. Oh, September. Maybe I’ll go more into details in a later post but I was fired from the RA job for something that was borderline ludicrous, but still against the rules. I was devastated and no longer an RA.
I called my parents and my dad gave me some life-changing advice: how you handle this negative situation will define who you are. Are you someone who gives up? Or are you someone who can take anything thrown at them and turn it into a strength?
I sat with that for awhile and couldn’t thank my dad enough.
Since I now had time on my hands I began to feverishly work out. I got sucked into CrossFit. If you would have met me in college you would have known that I did CrossFit because I wouldn’t shut up about it. Yeah… I was one of those people. But it really did get me in incredible shape, the strongest and leanest I had ever been. Everything was awesome.
Then, my senior year I met this woman. She was gorgeous. She was sassy. She was brilliant. A truly deadly combo and my kind of woman.
We spent a lot of time together and started dating by the end of the semester.
Then, during Christmas break of that senior year, I broke my ankle. Actually, I demolished my ankle. (For more details, see our last blog/podcast.)
Here’s the deal about my college career: as a typical American male, I loved being self-reliant. As a freshman, I had planned out job situation with the RA thing. I had it under control. Until it wasn’t.
As a senior, I got really in shape, even did some local CrossFit competitions. I was in control. And then, all of a sudden, with the a snippity-snap of some bones, I was no longer in control.
As an addict, I couldn’t control my quiet sins. I couldn’t control that part of my life so I worked really hard to control other areas of life.
I kept trying to find fulfillment in life and kept striking out. That’s the thing about addiction and internal conflict. You are dissatisfied with who you are so you try to control every aspect of life that you can thinking it form you into you who envision your best self being.
It was all a facade.
And where was God in all of this mess?
Hmm….well, I went to Mass. I guess you could say I had the “look” of Christianity yet I knew that I still had this other thing called pornography that I still viewed and I wondered if I’d ever stop.
After graduation, I moved back to Wichita and took a job as a stress engineer at Spirit AeroSystems.
Since I was back near the family, mom and I had more frequent in-person conversations, mostly involving pornography and that kind of thing. One time I was just let it all out and drew back the curtain. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t stop and I told my mom, “Mom, what if I’m just not a good person?”
Little did I know how much that shook my mom to her core and she turned up the heat on her prayers and the searching for answers... for me.
One evening soon after that she told me she wanted to show me something. She took me into the privacy of her room and showed me a workbook on porn addiction.
I took that book home that night. The only reason I read it was because she never shamed me in the process of handing it to me. She told me that she knew she had her own addictions with food and alcohol and she actually wanted to work on HERS while I worked on MINE.
The workbook clearly laid out the science of addiction. As I looked through it two weeks later, I tasted hope for the first time in a LONG time.
Parents, the SCIENCE of addiction is SO important to understand. I was not a bad person. I was caught in the addictive cycle.
That was huge turning point in my addiction.
Soon after that I back visiting the family when my mom declared that her and dad were going to watch some type of webinar. Mom’s a sucker for webinars on Facebook lol.
I asked her some questions and she told me that she was trying to build her blog’s email list.
Since I was the one that had encouraged her for YEARS to start blogging, I told her I wanted to watch the webinar, too.
Okay, I hate to admit this, but about halfway through the webinar my wheels were turning. I always get excited about new ideas. On top of that I knew mom could not do all, or much any of the tech work and behind the scenes.
I knew I could help Mom build an online business helping people overcome porn addiction. Yes, that’s where we first put our initial focus: in OVERCOMING addiction.
But we both knew that there were just too many people IN the addiction and that it was difficult to get out.
Plus there was the little fact that my mother would break down in tears after she got too deep into any story of porn addiction in her head. I never knew the tipping point.
After much discussion, we both decided we would work on helping kids learn how to reject porn before they ever saw it. And we knew the best place to start: in the home, with those with the most influence: the parents.
So, in the summer of 2016 we started formulating “The Parenting Dare.”
At that time I was still dating my girlfriend and spent most weekends in Manhattan, Kansas visiting her. Then, as she was getting ready to graduate from K-State she started interviewing out of state. She accepted a job in Madison, Wisconsin.
After many conversations, we decided it was best to get married before moving to a new city together.
So I bought her a boss engagement ring and I popped the question in the room where we first met: an engineering conference room on campus.
I filled the stairs going up three levels with rose petals and candles. It was dope. I’m definitely a hopeless romantic.
She said yes. Or maybe she said DUH.
Hey, did you know that it takes insane amounts of time to plan a wedding? Those next several months were packed to the brim and the wheels on the bus of “The Parenting Dare” squealed to a stop.
Then, about four months later, my fiance had the guts to tell me she thought it was a bad idea that we get married. I had a creeping suspicion that it was all going South, but tried looking past it.
There was an extraordinary bittersweetness to the whole ordeal and as my latest plan of life got demolished once again, I felt that God was inching closer and closer. Or rather… I was inching closer and closer to HIM.
With the wedding plans blown to bits and a blossoming distaste for women (KIDDING, I just had no desire to date anyone any time soon), I dove back into “The Parenting Dare.” Work on work. Engineer by day… porn… guy… fighter… by night…. Yeah!
Very quickly, I learned SO MUCH about microphones and editing and what works and what doesn’t work. As they say, experience is the best teacher.
The only hard part of my life was that work on work. As an engineer, I’d go into work for 8 hours and I felt like my soul was dying. I knew what it felt like to impact another’s life. I had a passion in my heart and it wasn’t airplane stress analysis.
And because I just understand technology, I knew I could make a living with the internet in good ways. I have a strong, confident personality. Surely I could make this work.
So I walked away from my 70k engineering job, two years after graduating.
My dad told me a few thing at the time, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out what he said! Anyway August 3, 2017 was my last day as a stress engineer.
September 1, 2017: The Parenting Dare was released.
I was proud. I was excited. I couldn’t wait for what the future had in store.
The last year or so has been AMAZING, but in ways I did not expect. I did become a millionaire, or anything even sort of close. God has taken the last year and completely flipped my heart inside out.
It has taken almost the whole year, but my personal journey alongside Christ has been cranked up to 11. I’ve never had a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit until quite recently. I love where I am and everything that had lead me to this moment. God has spent the last 12 months solidifying my own and my mom’s spiritual foundation, upon which The Parenting Dare is standing. The only way this will go is up.
Thank you for hanging out with me!
That was a blast.
Who woulda thunk… an engineer who loves to write. What the heck.
Update Spring 2021: We just released The Parenting Dare 2.0, an updated version of our original. It is for parents of children under the age of 12, thus it is PROACTIVE. Check it out.
Note: The Parenting Dare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com!