Keeping up appearances

“I knew all the answers, but I was full of secrets,” says former porn addict Dusty Ogelsby

File photo
FILE PHOTO

For as long as he can remember Dusty Ogelsby felt a pressure to measure up to everyone around him, to be better; to perform. "No one ever told me I wasn't good enough," he says. "I just never felt that I was."

Having grown up in church, Dusty was known as the good, solid, Christian leader at school— liked by everyone and with seemingly everything going for him.

"I grew up a southern Baptist preacher's son," he says.

"I learned at a very early age that I could either rebel against that, or I could perform. I chose to perform.

"I watched my dad do it as a pastor every day. Whatever thing he might be struggling with, it didn't matter. When we walked into church and he stood behind the pulpit, he just smiled, and he preached, and he did it well. He preached, and he performed."

On the inside, Dusty says he was empty and screaming.

"I knew all the answers, but I was full of secrets."

His secrets included sexual relationships with girls and an addiction to pornography, which he kept hidden all the way into theological college.

He struggled every day to maintain the image of the "perfect Christian" he had created for himself while continuing to do things he knew were wrong.

"I was flat out living a lie to everyone around me," he says.

"I felt more alone every single day of my life."

On the outside, his life was better than good. He became a part-time youth minister at the young age of 18—the same time he met the woman who would become his wife, Brandy Burten.

"I walked into a sorority party and saw the most beautiful girl I had ever seen," he recalls dreamily. Two years later they were married.

Dusty says he felt hopeful marriage meant he would no longer feel he needed to look at pornography.

"After all, I would be married to the most beautiful woman in the world. Why would I need that?"

But by then Dusty had already wired a habit in his brain that would not be easily broken, and he would struggle with his addiction for the next five years.

"While ministry was good, my wife was alone with a husband who was emotionally, physically, and spiritually unavailable and she couldn't figure out why.

"I continued to look at pornography on a daily basis, sometimes even while my wife slept in the next room," he confesses, his voice shaky.

"My pornography addiction and desperate need to fill my pain eventually led me down a road to full sexual addiction and paying for sex on a monthly basis."

Finally, in May 2005, Dusty and Brandy separated. Dusty spent the next two years in and out of relationships with women while continuing to feed his sex and pornography addiction.

Until one night, after watching a pornographic movie in his apartment, he broke. "What in the world have I done?" he cried.

"And God, where in the world are you?"

The next day, Dusty caught up with a friend and, for the first time in his life, opened up about his struggle.

His friend convinced him to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based recovery program, for at least a month.

Dusty says by that point he "was done and desperately needed help", but says he made it clear he was only going to listen, not participate. That promise did not last long.

"At the start of the [second] meeting I felt as if God sat down next to me," he recalls. "And finally I heard Him say, 'It's okay, you're in a safe place. It's time. You need to stop, and you need to stop now.'

"I was so overcome with emotion I could barely speak. But then things broke and I sat and told these 15 people I had never met before the whole truth."

Over the next eighteen months, Dusty healed, he forgave himself, and he made amends to the people he had hurt.

He tells how, by God's grace, he and Brandy were reconciled. Six years after their divorce, they remarried.

"And I married way out of my league," he says proudly.

Dusty confesses he still struggles, but today he "struggles well, and with hope".

His relationship with his wife is stronger than it has ever been, because, he says, their hope "does not lie in each other, but rather in a Savior who forgives, redeems, and restores".

In 2010, Dusty got a call that broke him to his core—his father, the pastor who had always managed to keep up appearances, had taken his own life.

Like Dusty's, his father's testimony is proof that what your life looks like on the surface is irrelevant; it is your heart, your mind, your soul, what is going on inside of you that truly matters.

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