The real reasons why so many LDS men can’t kick their pornography addiction.
I BRIEFLY CONSIDERED calling this “The Essay No One Wants to Read,” but then decided to plunge in and call it what it is, an explanation of exactly what keeps so many Mormon men from being able to find a permanent, bullet-proof way of staying away from pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. Before I do so, however, I want to make three points as background. First, although my intended audience is primarily Latter-day Saints, I am not suggesting that Mormons are any worse off in terms of pornography and sex addiction than society in general. We’re not. Many, if not most, men in America these days have significant problems with pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. For a fair number of these men, the response is simply to shrug and not to worry about it. “Men will be men. That’s how we’re wired. Gotta satisfy the urges or it’ll make us ‘unhealthy.’”
In contrast, I think that a large percentage of our Mormon men are suffering so badly right now because they are unable to live a life of integrity and are miserable as a result. They repeatedly and inexplicably engage in sexual behavior they know to be wrong and it is eating them up on the inside. In addition, a significant number of our women are struggling and suffering because they are unwilling to buy into the false but commonly-peddled notion that women just have to accept that “their men will be men”—pornography and masturbation are just part of the package. For Mormons—and others—something in our hearts and minds is telling us that this just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. This isn’t what God intended.
Back From the Abyss. Second, I speak from the position of one who has been to hell and lived to tell about it. I am a recovering sex and pornography addict. For years, I acted out secretly on my addiction. During those same years, I fought to overcome my “little problem” like a man possessed. I refused to let it suck the life out of my marriage and my family. I refused to let it steal my soul. Until I found real recovery, however, my addiction was entirely indifferent to the depth of my devotion to faith and family, and methodically sucked and stole away at its leisure. That’s what addiction does.
Finding Recovery. Third, when I talk about being an addict in recovery, the emphasis is on recovery. Being in recovery means that I used to act out on my addiction but now I don’t—at all—ever. This doesn’t mean I’m somehow “cured” and will never have to worry about compulsive sexual behavior ever again. Like a recovering alcoholic, I will return to my drug if I ever quit working my program of recovery. The exciting thing for me, however, is that I’ve finally found a recovery path that works. It has enabled me to stop engaging in the behavior that was killing me and killing my marriage.
Before recovery, my wife and I both felt like we were sliding off separate cliffs into oblivion and just barely holding on by our bloody fingernails. Then one day, I stopped. I surrendered, gave it all up, turned it over to a loving Father in Heaven who had been patiently waiting for me, and walked away from it. Again, this doesn’t mean I just started to ignore the problem and miraculously it went way. I walked away from the addictive behavior by walking into a program of recovery that included therapy and 12 Step meetings.
I can now look my wife straight in the eye and tell her I’m sexually sober. I couldn’t do that before recovery. She knows my sobriety date and knows how long I’ve been sober. She knows that with God’s strength and blessing, I have repented and forsaken the sin. She looks back into my eyes with confidence, knowing that finally I have the ability to stay sober and never go back. Before recovery, she wasn’t able to do that. Things are much different now. I am able to live a life of integrity. My wife is able to live a life without fear.
Along with others in recovery, I have found what countless Mormon men are dying to find but failing: complete sexual sobriety. My wife has found what so many Mormon women would give up everything to have: a sexually sober husband. We don’t say this lightly or by way of boasting. We are talking about it because we want other people to have what we have—or simply to know that it is even possible. We want to see LDS husbands and wives with confidence in each other. We want to see Latter-day Saint women who trust their husbands, who don’t cry themselves to sleep at night, who don’t wonder what happened to their “happily ever after.”
We want to see Mormon men worthy of the priesthood they bear, worthy to lay their hands on their children’s heads and utter blessings that are too wonderful to describe, worthy to attend the temple with their wives and feel the presence of angels, worthy to stand as disciples of Christ having felt the full redemptive power of His Atonement. We want to see our people enjoying peace and love in this life with no secrets gnawing away at their insides.
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