This month’s speaker is Greg Bainter, who struggled for decades with a pornography addiction before finding the courage to confess his secrets to his wife and re-dedicate himself to a godly life. His “recovery” was aided by LiveFree ministries and its accountability app, through which he met other men who had battled similar addictions—and, eventually, younger men whom Greg was able to mentor using his own struggles and experiences. Today Greg says he lives by three words: authenticity, vulnerability, and integrity. “I tell the guys I mentor, ‘If I slip up, I’m going to share that with you, even though I’m mentoring you. Because if you want to know me, you have to see me authentically, and that means the good and bad and the ugly. I just know that’s how I have to live my life going forward.”
Hello and welcome to The Redeemed Man podcast by The Redeemed. My name is Paul Amos, and I’m the founder of The Redeemed, which is a community of men who come together to share life’s struggles as well as our triumph over those struggles. Today, we are blessed to have with us Greg Bainter who’s here to discuss about his journey down the road of addiction and how he has come to know Christ. Greg welcome to the show.
Greg: Thank you, I’m glad to be here.
Paul: Greg, we want to begin where we do with all of our guests and ask you, What does redemption mean to you?
Greg: It’s a great question. It’s interesting that you bring that up because I was just reading some scripture yesterday and I was thinking about redemption. I think that for me, God is the God of second chances. God is the God of redemption. God is the God who can redeem the time.
At my age, I feel like there’s a whole lot of history going back that I wish I could have changed, that I could have made different. And made different choices. And I’ll have a story about that maybe a little later, but God says that it’s never too late, and he can take anything and change it and make something good out of it, so that’s what redemption means to me.
Paul: I love that you say God is the God of the second chance. It is so true in my own journey, and as I know if you’re going to talk a little bit about yours, but in my own journey, second chances have been critical because I certainly have made a mess of the things that happened in my life, and I’m thrilled to know that God gives us that chance at redemption. That he sees us as redeemed even before we lay out all the things that have happened in our lives. And ask him for that. He’s already done it for us.
If you wouldn’t mind, Greg, we’d love to hear about your story. Tell us a little bit about how you came to be here today, and just lead us down the journey that has ultimately led you to the place you are today.
Greg: Well, boy, there’s a lot of stuff there. So I’ll try to make it a little bit shorter. In my age at 62, I’ve got a lot of history. So it’s interesting because I met the Lord, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and I met the Lord when I was 16. And that was like the beginning of a journey of towards redemption.
I struggled most of my life with same-sex attraction, that was the biggest elephant in my room growing up. For most of my formative years, that was a big secret, and finally came to light when I met the Lord at 16, and I had a really precious aunt who led me to the Lord. She was the first person that I ever told about my same-sex attraction (SSA) struggle, and I was so definitely afraid that she was going to be shocked and horrified, and when I shared with her what my struggle was, she smiled and her first words were praised the Lord. The reason why she reacted that way is because she knew God can do something with that and God could do something in me. So for her, for me to confess that that was a really good thing.
Paul: I appreciate you sharing a little bit about the fact that you have same sex attraction, and just tell us from here kind of a little bit about the journey that led you to addiction, and a little bit about the journey of how you begin to overcome that.
Greg: Okay, well, you know when I met the Lord at 16, I had felt some freedom for the first time in my life. I just knew that God was really the answer. When I accepted him, he became real, and I thought, Wow, I’ve been looking for this my whole life. I was a teenager, I tried to mask the pain and the shame that I was dealing with through alcohol and drugs, and those weren’t giving me really anything that made a difference in my life. It just compounded and made the shame and the guilt and the self-hatred a lot worse.
I met the Lord and walked with him for about six or seven months. And things were good, and I felt like, Okay, this is going to be the answer for me. And I think at that point, I was still confused in a lot of ways, and the enemy can come in and hit you at your weakest points. So six months after I met the Lord, somebody came into my life, another guy who struggled with same sex, attraction, and we became friends. Before I knew it, we had started having a sinful, emotional and sexual relationship.
That lasted for about four years, so by the time I was 21. I can distinctly remember me telling God, I know this is wrong, but I feel like they can’t help myself and I’m going to walk down that path anyway.
So it was a conscious intentionality about walking away from God, turning my back on Him. So that lasted about four years, thought I had found the answer as far as the emotional needs in my life and what I was looking for. God was always in the background. God was still there, but I had kind of put him in the background. And the neat thing about God is that I believe the scripture that says that the things that God has started in your life, he will complete.
God let me go through these four years, and the way He brought me back to him is that he brought that other guy that I was involved with to salvation. That person had not been raised in a Christian home either and had no experience with Jesus. But through some circumstances and events in his life, he became a Christian, and he’s the one that came to me and said, ‘This is wrong, we’ve got to stop this because this isn’t what God wants.’
God used that circumstance to bring me back to Him. It was very painful, very difficult, but I got to the lowest of lowest places again, I felt like, Okay, God, you never let go of me, you were there the entire time. You knew what you were doing and you knew what I needed.
So I re-committed to my life to God at 21. I had moved out of the area from where I was, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, and so I knew I needed to get out of some life circumstances and some things that weren’t good. So I moved 100 miles to Sacramento, California. God had given me a place to live, and I had a car and I had a couple hundred dollars in my pocket. God just knew what he was doing, and so I got a job within a couple of months, and then I had found a little church to start attending. On the very first Sunday, two rows in front of me was the lady that was going to become my wife.
God just knows what He’s doing. And so I met her that first day. This was a really small church, so they had like sharing time where it was very informal and people could get up and share things, and so I shared, stood up and shared what God had done in my life and that what He was doing. And then what I struggled with, and it was amazing, this church just embraced me.
Being 21, a group of young adults that were my age at that point, the end of the service came up and just surrounded me and included me, and that was one of the most healing experiences I think I had ever experienced. And my future wife was part of that group. So within a few months, we have gotten to be really close friends as part of this group.
God just turned a switch, and for the first time in my young life, I started having emotional and sexual feelings for the lady that was going to become my wife. Up to that point with my same sex attraction struggle, I had never, ever had emotional feelings or any kind of a sexual attraction towards a female. And it was almost like God clicked to switch because he knew that that is the woman that He was going to bring to my life.
Within about three months from that point we started dating, within a few more months, we got engaged and within a year, we got married. It was an amazing thing, and everybody knew that it was a God thing. It was just amazing that I could clearly see the hand of God in that. We celebrated 40 years this last September.
I can clearly say that my wife makes me a better man, that I am complete and whole in her, and I can experience really the miracle of what marriage is supposed to be about from God’s perspective in God’s eyes. But it took 40 years or 37 years to get to the point where I could clearly see that.
Our first six months of marriage was really good, things were great, but there were things that were still needed to be dealt with in my life. In addition to the same-sex attraction, I discovered masturbation at a young age, probably nine or 10 years old. It had become really an addictive thing in my life, and at this point, even though I was married and I was feeling fulfilled, and I knew that’s where I needed to be, masturbation was still an issue.
My wife need my struggle before we got married, really about the same-sex attraction, we didn’t really talk about masturbation too much, she knew that was probably a little part of it, but not to the extent that it was becoming and really had become an addiction in my life.
Within another year after getting married, we had our first child and within five years we had three kids, so our life was busy. I was working, she was a stay-at-home mom, life was crazy, but crazy in a wonderful way. But I still hadn’t really dealt with the addiction of masturbation, I really needed to discover the roots of the same-sex attraction, although God had given me a level of freedom, those feelings and emotions were still there and they were still kind of turning inside. I knew that there was a time that I had to deal with it, and there were some dark days in the first seven, eight years of our marriage where I think that I quit sharing that struggle with my wife and telling her when I was struggling with the emotions of it, and the pull of it, and that was the worst thing I could have done. Because with any kind of addiction, one of the dangers and one of the things you do is you pull away and you isolate, and I think I had started to isolate from my wife. That was a huge mistake on my part.
In my late 20s, I think it was 27, 28, I decided I really needed to get some Christian counseling to try to sort that out as far as the same sex attraction. So I saw a Christian counselor for about five or six months, and we dug deep and discovered the roots of what that same-sex attraction was. It was really interesting because I was able to come to see it that it wasn’t really sexual at all. It was some unmet needs in my life.
I grew up in a non-Christian home, but I had hard-working parents, and my parents ended up being married 62 years. A couple of years ago before my mom died, they loved each other, they loved their kids. But my dad and I really become connected as when I was a boy. I was artistic and I was musical, and I was a very sensitive little kid. My dad lived and breathed sports, he loved sports, and it just wasn’t something that I liked. He tried to bring me into his world, and I just didn’t want to be in that world.
And my dad also worked two jobs, so he was gone most nights, so we just really didn’t connect. As a little boy, I perceived that as a rejection, that he rejected me. Through counseling, I was able to come to understand that that isn’t true, that my dad loved me and in his own broken way did the best he could. But I perceived rejection, and in that perception, I didn’t feel like I got the affirmation for my Dad that I needed as a little boy. I didn’t get brought into the tribe of men that every little boy needs to have happened in their life to identify with what masculinity is.
So there was this deficit in my life, and so going through the counseling helped to discover that, and that was really the roots of my SSA. I experienced a lot of healing. I was able to forgive my dad because I had a lot of anger. I was able to forgive myself and forgive that little boy, because I had a lot of self-anger and self-hatred. So that was a real defining moment in my life as far as discovering what the same sex attraction was.
I should have kept counseling going because I needed to deal with the addictions in my life, and I didn’t, I stopped. So masturbation supplanted the same sex attraction as is the biggest elephant in the room. I went a lot of years, a lot of decades where I was addicted.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that pornography really became an addictive factor along with that, when we got set up with the internet and it wasn’t dialup. I can remember in my work schedule changed so that I was home alone and my wife would go to work about an hour before I did, I could come home for lunch, and so I can clearly remember the morning I was in front of the computer doing some odds and ends, and a thought came in my head, why don’t you look up on the internet, what you could find as far as pornography, and I had never, ever thought about that before, it just never entered my mind, and I can remember that morning doing that, and it was like heroin to a drug addict.
And so for the next 17 years, I became really, really heavily addicted to porn, along with the masturbation, to the point where I would act out probably four or five, six days a week. If I had a day off during the week because I was working on a Saturday or something, I would binge in front of my computer probably for three or four hours.
Pornography addiction is a time bandit, it steals your time, and you don’t even know it. And you think you can handle it. I was thinking that I could compartmentalize all those things in my life. I was a worship leader at church, so I compartmentalize my worship leader role, my husband roll, my father role. All of these things I could juggle and handle in my life, but I wasn’t realizing that what was happening is that when I was pulling away from people. I was isolating and I was withdrawing, which is a very common thing that happens with people that are in addiction, especially sexual addiction.
It got to the point where I pulled away so much that my wife and I went nine years with no emotional or physical intimacy. We were friends, we had had the same likes and same things in common, so we ended up becoming roommates.
I used to joke to my wife over the last couple of years, and I don’t know why you didn’t hit me over the head with a frying pan and confront me and kicked me out of the house. Her answer was that she knew that there was something wrong and something was going on in my life, but she also had a promise from God, she knew that we were meant for one another, that God picked each other out for the other person. So she was a prayer warrior, she prayed for me.
Paul: How wonderful to have someone in your life who could speak to that, they can be that prayer warrior for you, who can come through for nine years. That is really an outstanding testimony of your wife.
Greg: God knew that I needed somebody just like her. I am extremely grateful that he put her in my life and that He enabled her to pray for me.
And I think that I was getting feeling and more shame upon shame and guilt upon guilt, and I got to the point where I knew that I couldn’t compartmentalize it all anymore. I couldn’t juggle it all. I was turning to alcohol to try to mediate the pain.
I think it’s interesting because people are saying, Well, what is the underlying reasons that you’re addicted? What are you trying to compensate for? What are you trying to medicate away? And I think, even though I had discovered the roots of my same-sex attraction and received some healing there. There was a lot of wounds still in me, a lot of hurt that I had never really dealt with, and it was just that human desire to be affirmed and accepted and desired and wanted, and all of those needs that are not unique to me that every human being has. I think that that was still the underlying emotional reasons why I was trying to find a way to medicate that pain away, and so addiction became something that just got out of control. I think it was in September of 2018 that I got to the lowest point where I knew that I had to do something.
And what God did is that I got this thought in my head that, You know what this is doing to you, but what is it doing to those in your life that you love? How is this affecting your wife? And honestly, and this is an embarrassing thing to say, but I think that’s the first time in a whole lot of years that I really ever stop to think about what it’s doing to my wife.
I think that for those of us who are in addiction, we’re very self-centered, we’re self-focused and we isolate, and it becomes all about us. That was the key that God needed to really get into my heart in my life and get me to the point where I’m ready to make a change. I was to think about somebody other than myself.
So one night, and it was the night before our 37th wedding anniversary. I just spilled my guts when we’re sitting around watching TV, and I think I had a little bit of whiskey. And my wife had said to me, ‘You need to stop that. Whatever you’re doing there, it’s too much.’
And so I just spilled my guts to my wife, burst out in tears and told her everything about the masturbation addiction, about the pornography addiction, and that through those addictions, the same-sex attraction had kind of reared its ugly head again. So I just confessed it all to her and I just cried. And I told her, I can’t fix myself, I can’t change it, I don’t know if I can go on anymore.
I felt like I was a fraud, I felt like I was a fake. And now my wife was very calm and she did her best to console me, but she was terrified because she was afraid that I was going to make a decision to walk away. To walk away from my marriage, walk away from God and pursue a gay lifestyle or whatever.
That night, I couldn’t sleep, all I could do was cry. I went to my den and sat in my recliner, and I just cried all night. My wife was terrified, she was in our bedroom, and she was terrified. Pretty bad timing to have that happen the night before our anniversary, so we got up the next day and we got ready for work and we didn’t really say anything to each other, and we both like to work.
And earlier in the week, knowing that that was going to be our anniversary, I had had ordered flowers to be delivered to her. She got those flowers, but she said it was the worst day of her life, and she threw the flowers away. She just said that she hope she never gets those particular kinds of flowers again.
I thought, man Greg, you can just mess things up and add insult to injury. It was all I could do to concentrate at work. It was very difficult.
But God knew what he was doing and he started to get into my heart. And by the end of the day, I knew that I didn’t want to walk away for some basic reasons. I was settled in my life, I was comfortable, we had a good life, we had adult children at that point, I had had grand children at that point. For no other reasons than I was comfortable, I didn’t want to leave. So when I came home, I told my wife that I didn’t want to leave, and I couldn’t promise anything that our relationship couldn’t necessarily get better, but I knew I didn’t want to leave, and I knew that I was here that I would try.
Well, that was a big relief for her, but because she was definitely afraid that I was going to walk away. So we basically hugged and we talked and we prayed together. And the next day or that later that night, I remember saying to God, God I can’t fix myself, I can’t change myself. And if you want to do something in my life that you are going to have to do it. God, I’m tired of playing church, tired of playing what being a Christian is supposed to be about. I want to know you intimately. I want to know you deeply, and so God, if you can do anything in my life, then I want you to come in and you got to do the work, you’ve got to come in and make a radical change in me.
Well, that was all God needed, he needed me to get down to the very, very core of who I was, push everything aside, and realized that there was nothing that I could do on my own that I needed Him desperately. God can work with that. I think for any of us in our life, God can work with that.
So he did. Within a few days, I started to feel some joy, I started to feel some hope, and yeah, there was a lot of work to be done, but God was starting. And here’s the amazing thing, within probably four or five days, God started bringing back a love for my wife that had been pushed down for so many decades, literally.
I have gotten to the point where I felt like I wasn’t in love with her anymore, I wasn’t attracted to her, that’s because there was no room in me for that, it was because it was so filled up with all the mess. God started bringing that back and it was new and refreshing, and I started being attracted to her again.
It was like a new honeymoon. I took around on dates, and then within probably another four or five days, so a full week or a little longer, we were able to become physically intimate again, and it was an amazing surprise for both of us because it was better than it had ever been in our entire marriage.
The difference was I could completely focus on my wife and be engaged with her, and without all of the junk tugging at me and all of the unraveled in all of the mess that was there that I had given to the Lord. So there wasn’t that stuff in the way, there were no walls anymore between us. It was an amazing thing, and God just bless that and just let it blossom over the next several months, we just we were giddy. We were like giddy teenagers again, and that’s redemption.
And you know, I’m thinking, Okay, God, you can change me, you can work on me, but on top of that, you’re going to do this. I mean, it was just beyond my wildest. He’s amazing. Amazing. I just couldn’t fathom that he was going to do that.
And that’s continued. Our marriage has just been in the last three years better than I could ever think. I can truly now say that my wife makes me a better man, that she completes me, she makes me whole in our relationship for the first time in 37 years of marriage at that point. I could truly understand what God intended for a marriage between a man and a woman.
So it was a wonderful thing. And I really grieved over the lost decades, and that God not only robbed myself of a full life and a life that was really focused on loving you and being that man that God you can use, and also being the husband and the father that I knew God called me to be. I grieved over that. Until my wife, I think, got tired of me whining about it that she took her hands and put them on my cheek, and she looked at me and she said she’s not grieving over the last time because of the fact that it’s better now than it ever has been. She wouldn’t trade back for anything, and that just wrecked me because in our own human thinking, we’re sad about those things, but that’s how God redeems time.
I had a friend tell me during this time that not that God wanted you to go through what you went through, or that it was His perfect plan for your life, but God makes all things new. God can take broken things and have good things come out of them.
So he looked at me and he said, If you were meant to go through this because it could touch one person, would you do it all over again? No, I don’t know about that. But that is the amazing thing about God, is that He can bring good things out of broken things and things that we mess up.
Honestly, now God has birthed in me this passion to walk alongside other guys who are struggling and with SSA or just pornography and addictions, and just say, Hey, I was the poster child for hopelessness because I always felt like God can change this person, God can do this, but he’s not going to do it in me.
I blamed myself, I was never mad at God, I blamed myself. And so I was like the poster child for hopelessness, and so I can tell people that are struggling and that feel hopeless, and I could say I know exactly what you’re thinking and feeling because I was there. So that level of empathy and understanding, I wouldn’t have had that if I hadn’t struggled and went through what I went through.
God gives us each testimony for a purpose that we can share about the wonder of God and about God’s redemption and his healing power. And so God just is birthed in me this passion to share that with others.
Paul: Well, that’s wonderful, I appreciate you sharing your journey from isolation and compartmentalization to God saving you and saving your marriage. Powerful to hear that your wife has been such a steady person in your life. It’s amazing to hear the healing that’s happened in your life. Thank you for sharing that very intimate and powerful story.
Maybe you could talk now a little bit about your transition into Live Free, and a little bit about what it meant to you to join small groups and to be connected with small groups.
Greg: Sure. When I started my recovery journey, the little over three years ago. I call it an awakening, because it was like an awakening for me. I didn’t realize in the beginning that I was going to need help from other people. I did early on, get some protection on my devices, I think it was Ever Accountable that I used. My wife was in my accountability person for about a year, in the first year of my recovery, and that had its pitfalls. Later on, people said, you really don’t want your spouse as your accountability person because of the emotion involved in things, although it worked out pretty well, and my wife was always very gracious and understanding.
But I needed more than that. I was reading, I was praying a lot, I was talking to my wife and going on this new journey of recovery. But I knew I needed more, and I was still caught in this three or four week cycle of acting out, of struggling with sobriety. My God, I never went more than probably a month or two in my life of not acting out, so how do I get beyond that?
I ignored the first two or three emails and I thought, What is this… I don’t know what this is. By the third or fourth email, I thought, Okay, I’m going to look at this and see what it is. And I discovered it was a community, an online community of men who are in this struggle to recover from pornography addiction, masturbation addiction, sexual addiction.
They were having this special that if you paid like $19.95 for a year, it was a discounted rate or something like that. So I went ahead and I did that, I thought, Well, what do I got to lose? So I did that, and it was amazing what I discovered that online, there was this community at that point, this was two years ago, probably 50 or 60 men at that point, maybe a hundred of guys that were in this community. And you can share your story. You could be vulnerable, people would pipe up and comment on what you’re sharing, they would pray for you, they would encourage you, they would challenge you, and for the first time in my life, it was like I experienced what community can really do for you.
Having other guys praying for me, you just felt like you weren’t alone, it wasn’t just you on this battle. I was going through a re-battle, God was still fulfilling that promise of me asking to get to really know him, I felt like it was being sifted like wheat in a lot of ways.
That community really became a group, a brotherhood and men who just really were there for me. An example is about three or four months after being a part of Live Free, I had to go on a business trip down to Southern California from Northern California for work, and I was going to be in a hotel for two nights and that would be a deadly combination for me. I had shared that on a few days before I left, asking for prayers. Literally about 38 guys posted on my post or commented saying they’re going to pray for me specifically on those days. Those two nights that I was in that hotel, I think I could tangibly feel the presence of those prayers, the presence of God, and knowing that God was praying for me. So it was a victory.
I, needless to say, I didn’t slip up. I didn’t fall. It was really because of that community and those guys praying for me, and so the other thing that you can do through that community as you can chat with guys individually. Within a few months I started chatting with guys individually and getting to know people. This is all virtual because nobody lived in my area. I was on the West Coast, there were people on the East Coast, there were some people in England, there was a guy in Australia. And you start talking to these people and you start developing Godly healthy relationships with these people.
Within a few months, I really started to experience what it was like to be a tribe of men and experience the healing that could come from those kinds of relationships. I think most men, especially in Western culture, struggle with having good, close, intimate friends. And I was starting to experience what that would be like. I started racking up sobriety numbers pretty soon.
Then in the middle of that, I saw that Live Free offered online small groups, and these are groups that meet a certain time each week, once a week, and there’s four or five, six, eight, 10 guys in that group, and it meets via Zoom and there’s a leader, so I decided, Okay, I’m going to join a group.
So I did, and it was wonderful. The same guys every week. You’re accountable to them, you can share your struggles, they can encourage you, they can challenge you, and between meetings you can chat with these guys because there was a dedicated chat room just for the group.
So that was in, I think, the end of January of 2020. So I’ve been in that same group and I’ve stayed in that group, and the entire time, so I’m almost going on… What is that? Almost two years, and it’s been great. And within a few months after that, I started really wrapping up sobriety numbers, and I had gotten to the point I think it was last June that I had reached 545 days of not acting out at all.
That was amazing, I never could experience or expect that I could experience that level of freedom. So God also had started giving me that desire to share with others what I had experienced, and the freedom that I had experienced. Within a month or two of that, Carl Thomas, the leader of Live Free, reached out to me and asked me about my sobriety, how I’m doing where I’m at, what I’d be interested in leading a small group. I thought, you know, I had actually started to think about that.
We waited for a few months before the opportunity arose. There was an opportunity to take over an existing group that came up, and I did that last February. And a group that had been in, I think, been in operation for four or five months, and then it was a group for guys who struggled with same-sex attraction. There were seven guys in a group at the time. And I just love the experience to be able to share my experiences with this group of dedicated guys and to encourage them and really shepherd them.
It’s like you’re a pastor, I felt like I was shepherding them in a lot of ways. Then there was a group of guys in England and Australia, that struggled with same-sex attraction, that couldn’t find a group that would fit their time zones where it was good for them, so we saw a need for a group that could do that. And by this time I was retired and I had retired from work, so my schedule was very open and very fluid, so we put together a time that would really work with these guys in these other countries, and I had asked them about it and if they would be interested. And they were.
So in April, we started a second of group, and we have two guys in England, there were two guys in Australia, a couple of guys in California, and then there were some guys in the Midwest. It was interesting because literally, I could truly say in that group good morning, good afternoon and good night, because it hit all of those times of the day with these guys, and so we’ve been going strong since April in that group. There are six guys that are active in that group.
Then there was another group that I just took over last Monday, and so they needed a permanent leader for that group, so I took over that group. That’s a non-SSA group. So I’m loving it, I feel like I am exactly in the center of God’s will of what he’s calling me to do and where he wants me to be, and it is all about redemption. It is all about second chances. It is all about the fact that you’re not alone, that we’ve been there, we know what it’s like, and you can change.
I feel passionate about it. Ultimately, it’s sharing the Gospel and the power of God.
Paul: Well, Greg, thank you for taking the time today to share with us your story, to share with us what Live Free is meant to you, what it’s meant to get into small groups, and I’m so proud of you to hear that you are such a great leader of now three different small groups. And what you’re doing in the AA world. Which now has a 12th-step of giving back to others.
Your journey is one that will be motivational to all of our listeners. And we thank you very much for your time.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate your time this third Thursday in this wonderful evening. We hope that you’ve gotten as much as we’ve gotten out of this podcast, and we ask you to continue to look for The Redeemed, look for our email sign-up and look for us on social media, look forward to launching another great podcast on third Thursday of next month, thank you very much.