Sam Nigro couldn’t catch his breath. He noticed how out of shape he had become the past few years. He was 50 pounds overweight and his diet reflected that. He just had a medical procedure done on his heart and was diagnosed with diabetes. He knew a lot of change needed to happen. He was 52 and felt like it was okay, and maybe easier, if he just died. The weight of all the work he had to do to his physical body seemed overwhelming but what felt like was killing him was the weight of the secret he had been hiding for years...his battle with porn. Porn was something he dealt with off and on all his life and now it took a seat right in the middle of Sam’s life again.
“God was telling me at 50 years old ‘you think that’s it?.. there’s more brokenness’,” confessed Sam. “I just wanted God to take it away.”
Sam continued “When I realized God wasn’t going to miraculously heal me, it opened my eyes to the other brokenness in me. I did porn to stabilize me. I could detach and take on anything and porn numbed me.”
Sam knew he needed a new life especially for his wife, Kathy. Sam felt responsible for Kathy. He knew she needed a husband that was going to take care of her and be there for her. So he began to research. He also started working out and eating differently. At the same time he read articles and studied the chemical pathways in the body and began to understand the decision-making process in the brain. How there are chemicals that keep people in addiction which can then create a ‘brain trap.’ Little by little, facts were revealed to him. Slowly, Sam determined he wasn’t going to get out of this addiction by himself. He needed to start this time differently. Considering all his emotions were off balanced, he would naturally go to porn to feel more stable. He needed to find where that imbalance was coming from and to start pressing into the pain and to stop avoiding. He began to pray about it and he asked God for help. Immediately he knew his first step was to confess this addiction and hurt he had bottled up for so long to trusted people who were in his life. To get it out into the open! He knew who he had to confess to first and that was to his precious partner and wife, Kathy.
Kathy Nigro will never forget the day her husband admitted his secret to her. She and Sam had walked through so much together over the years. Over forty years if you count when they dated in high school. They each brought their share of pain and fear to their marriage. They both knew one another’s childhood traumas, trust issues, and emotional crisis. She had thought that all the counseling, their involvement at church, and their re-commitments had fixed their issues. Well, most of their issues. She knew deep in her heart that there was something still missing in her marriage. What she didn’t consider was that porn had never gone away and that devastated her.
“I thought it was not around anymore,” Kathy said. “I was stunned. I fell to the ground and into shock.”
Kathy shared that Sam’s confession “opened up a door. He was really good at shutting down when I was angry and I felt like I was the crazy one. When Sam would confess his addiction in the past, I had to quickly get over it. We couldn’t talk about it. I never grieved it and I just had to give it up. However, the pain stayed inside. Finally, I knew it wasn’t all me. Satan had a hold on our lies and each of us had no clue. I didn’t hate Sam but I hated the situation. I felt shameful. I wanted to connect with God in the way God had been wanting for me all these years.”
Soon after confessing, Sam and Kathy each found their way to a men’s and a women’s 12 step program. Kathy joined a partners of sex addicts group and Sam to an addicts group. They also started individual counseling. From there, understanding and new life gradually began. For Sam it was an awareness of how manipulating and controlling and deceitful porn had been in his life the past few years. For Kathy it was an awareness of suppressed hurt and emotions that had crippled her all her life.
“I was so full of shame that it literally kept me from feeling,” shared Sam. “When Kathy would go through difficult things in life, I didn’t feel much because of my numbing mechanism. Up until now, I didn’t connect it to porn. God truly used this as an ‘aha moment.’”
“Going through the group,” said Sam, “I finally was in front of a bunch of guys that I was telling my darkest secret and exposing it. I hated it but I knew there was something healing about it.”
Kathy revealed, “we were not sexually healthy and I realized regardless I needed to change. It wasn’t about sex. It was about feeling protected, numbing and covering hurts and emotions, and keeping myself from having to deal with anything. Trying to keep yourself in what seemed like a safe place and not even doing it consciously. The change began by going through this Christ-centered group and the steps offered in the program. God changed us and He changed me.”
Kathy had avoided pain all her life and because of this, it had become a deterrent to walk with Christ. She now confronted pain with Christ. By walking with Christ so much freedom had been given to Kathy.
“It’s a refiner's fire,” declared Kathy. “I feel good now and it is good. I’m not scared of it. Wherever God leads me and us we just now want to be open to where God takes us. Your will be done, Lord!”
About a year later, Kathy and Sam decided doing a 12-step workbook together would be more beneficial than having separate counselors. While still going to their individual support groups, they were doing devotionals together for the first time! They were connecting to one another with Christ in the middle.
“Addiction is so entwined with emotions and Kathy and I had so many emotions that we never talked about,” said Sam. “So many buried emotions. Our biggest enemy was ourselves. Emotion for each of us equaled alcohol, drugs, and sex addictions. The others such as control, anger, and manipulation...well, they don’t look as big but they were. You just make the addiction as the idol.”
“I didn’t go to God nor to His Word but instead to the addiction,” Sam said looking down at the table. “Finally figuring that out, holding on to the addiction as an idol for decades, I realized I didn’t want that anymore. That’s when it hit me the most. By going through these steps together, and the scripture and truth it provided, it just hit me hard. It still hits me. This is what drew us to God and to never look back.”
It was in that time where God was not only healing them individually and their marriage, but a seed was planted to serve others and to give back. Over the past year, Kathy and Sam have felt the conviction and excitement of creating a community of people who have been bound by addiction and brokenness and to walk alongside them on a Christian path out of addiction and a path towards freedom.
“In the program we start to walk through where you came from and then toward transformation and repentance,” Sam articulated.
“Being a Christian we have these ideas of what is good and bad and analyzing ourselves but not seeing and accepting how God sees us,” Kathy added. “It’s humbling ourselves before the Lord. As you go through the steps, it’s a path toward Christ.”
A recovery group is about broken people who have found healing and to continue working with broken people who want healing. The goal of healing is achieved by going through each step in the program. When doing this, understanding and making the connection to the addiction and to the emotions starts to happen. The other vital aspects of the recovery group are the connection to community and to accountability.
“You don’t have to know all the answers. You just process together and with a mentor,” replied Sam. “It sets up great things in people. It’s healing.”
Kathy added, “when you start in the recovery group setting you are around people who understand what you are going through. It’s also private and anonymous. You can share and still be safe. There will also be an opportunity for us to split up into guy and girl groups for more comfort and the opportunity to share more openly.”
To anyone who is suffering from addiction and life’s pains, Sam and Kathy want you to know that ‘you are not alone.’ The recovery group will be a place where one can share honestly and safely and to be heard. In the middle of it all, grace and mercy will be given along with lots of prayer and truth.
“Being real and doing that with each other and doing it with Christ is fundamental,” stated Sam. “It might not fix everything, but it’s an opportunity. Kathy and I highly recommend it for anyone who is going through what we described. When you hear other people’s stories, there’s healing in that too.”
Sam described the recovery group as “for people to come, who are much like us, broken and with baggage, and to see them freed from the effects. To truly live in relationship with Christ, to know they are loved by Him and to intimately understand how much He yearns to be in relationship with them. We have all sinned but Christ leans in and connects with us. Kathy and I just want God and then to be open to what He reveals.”
Kathy quietly replied with, “I just want to see broken hearts and marriages to be mended and to let Jesus lead and guide us.”
Sam agreed and said, “I don’t want to limit what God will do. It’s His will not ours. We just want to be open.”
Reflecting back to when Sam’s life was bound and chained by addiction and even back to his childhood trauma, Sam wished he could tell that depressed husband and lonely boy the following words,
“I would tell him that this way is not going to give you what you really need. Christ has something better and wants to free you from this addiction and pain. He will love you regardless of anything and wants to heal you because of the love He has for you. Christ has seen you in your sin and that is why He died and made a way for you to come out of your sin. And He hasn’t stopped nor ever will stop loving you.”
When asked the same, Kathy would tell that sweet teenage girl or young wife deep in darkness these words,
“there is a God whose love is bigger than you can imagine and He’s waiting for you. Don’t let your fear and pain stop you from receiving that love. He has open arms for you. Step into them and let it all go. Allow Him to deal with it. He offers His yoke and lays ours to the side. You will find healing and peace in Jesus and you will never have to perform to earn God’s love.”
Addiction had become a weight Sam and Kathy could no longer bare and it was deliberately killing each of them from the inside out. Now, that weight has been taken off of them and onto the shoulders of the God of the universe. Without this weight, these secrets and lies, Sam and Kathy have been given a new life. God had offered each of them freedom from hurt and fear through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Not only are Sam and Kathy walking together in this truth God has given to them, they are now setting their eyes toward the future by giving back to people who also desperately seek this freedom. They are leading a group, Discover Life Recovery, which will meet Tuesdays at the Midtown location. See more information below or on citylightomaha.org/care.
Discover Life Recovery
Tuesdays | Midtown
This group is all about building a safe and intentional community where we can learn together what it means to live in the freedom God intends for us in Jesus. Discover Life Recovery is for couples and singles who wish to be free from struggles, addictions, and hurts in current or past relationships. If interested or to get connected, call or text Sam at 402-210-3014 or Kathy at 402-210-3376.