5. We Should Accept that Sex Addiction Really is a Disease. There’s a disconnect in a lot of the thinking out there when it comes to sex addiction. People believe that there truly can be an overwhelming, compulsive power of addiction when it comes to alcohol, cocaine, heroin and cigarettes. These drugs are all tangible things. We can put our hands on them and take them into our bodies. For some reason, however, people are having trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that an addictive compulsion to engage in sexual behavior is practically identical to an addiction to the consumption of tangible drugs. I see people nod in agreement about the addictive nature of pornography, and then the next words out of their mouths are expressions of dismay that a particular man doesn’t just stop looking at pornography if he knows that it’s killing his marriage. That’s the point! He doesn’t stop because he can’t stop. He can’t stop because he’s addicted. Addiction means that his brain can’t resist the compulsion to act out with his drug. If you think that it doesn’t make sense, my response is, “Yes! That’s exactly the point! It doesn’t make sense!”
Addiction makes people do things that don’t make sense. It creates insanity. Why else would people continue to smoke cigarettes knowing that they are going to die because of their addiction? Why else would people continue to drink as they lose family, friends and employment, and as their bodily organs begin to shut down? Why else would people keep going back to engage in immoral, shocking and even dangerous sexual behavior while knowing that it’s wrong and may eventually kill them?
This is not to say that every person who commits an immoral sexual act is crazy when he does it. I am talking here about men and women who want to change, who want to stop doing what they’re doing, who have tried through prayer, confession, and self-mastery to control their compulsion to do things that are wrong—and then end up going back to them again anyway. This is addiction! It is a disease.
6. We Should Stop Referring to It Only as a Habit or a Problem. Using those words—and avoiding the word “addiction”—minimizes the issue and suggests to everyone that this is just a minor inconvenience that can be adjusted with prayer, positive thinking and self-control. I encourage you to read the essay “Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship” for a different perspective. This addiction is so much bigger than many of us realize.
7. We Must Quit Thinking That They Can Overcome Addiction On Their Own. Much of the counsel we get in the Church about overcoming the “pornography problem” involves prayer and scripture study, activities we usually undertake on our own and in private. Addiction thrives on isolation. Because of the shame and humiliation associated with the problem and the desire to keep it a secret, the addict will glom onto any suggestion that involves addressing the problem through isolating activities. Addiction loves hearing advice about prayer and scripture study. “More time solo,” it says. Obviously, I’m not saying that addicts do away with those two activities. What I am saying, however, is that addicts also need to associate with others who understand addiction because they have personally lived through it and overcome it.
It is our experience that Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) fills this need. In SA, the members encourage and inspire each other to stay sexually sober and to achieve progressive victory over lust. The program works. In my opinion, it works better than any other 12 Step program out there. Its principles are exactly in line with the Restored Gospel. Many LDS men attend these meetings regularly and report that they have achieved a freedom from addiction that had eluded them for years, even decades. Addicts need the help of other recovering addicts to overcome their disease. They cannot do it alone.
We don’t need more folks pointing out the supposed problem as if doing so will also solve the problem. We need more people recognizing addictive behavior immediately, and encouraging the addict to get treatment immediately. We need more people understanding that he cannot get over addiction on his own. If a guy with the “little problem” tells us that he has gotten over it on his own, we should be recognizing that he is kidding himself or lying to us (or both) because that’s what addicts do. They kid themselves and then lie to others to cover up the addiction. Then they lie again to convince those around them that they’ve recovered miraculously on their own. Doesn’t make sense? Right! It doesn’t. Addiction is insanity. It is not a “little problem.”