The ABCs of Porn Addiction | An LDS View

When I was a child, I disappeared into a fantasy world where the women accepted me, liked me and were happy to see me. When my reality hurt me, I went to my non-reality fantasy world where I hurt less. After I was exposed to pornography and sexual abuse, the fantasy women took on the appearance of the women in the magazines. As a child, lust became my anesthetic. Even when I went for years without looking at any pornography, my fantasy world was populated with enough pornographic memories that it was for me almost no different than looking at the “real thing.”

Now Connecting.

My relationship addiction and connection addiction go back to my early years. I had a mentally ill mother. I now describe my childhood as growing up in the home of an alcoholic—only without the alcohol. Coming home from school each day was traumatic because I never knew what version of my mother was waiting for me. Because of that emotional instability at home, I developed a compulsion to connect with other women. I longed for someone who accepted me, liked me and was happy to see me. I was constantly looking for a girl or a woman I could connect with—not necessarily in a sexual way, but in some elusive mental-emotional-spiritual way.

The ABCs of Porn Addiction

Photo courtesy of buzzybee by way of stock.xchng.

Much of my young life consisted of trying to make connections with women in whatever ways I could think of. A compliment from a female teacher sent me into orbit. An appreciative laugh at my humor from a girl in a high school class would keep me medicated for the rest of the day. A smile from the lady at the cash register at Safeway made me feel euphoric. Eye contact with a woman in an elevator or in the car next to me in traffic energized me for hours.

I would do whatever I could to make a connection somehow, never realizing that that’s what I was doing. If a connection wasn’t possible or practical, I would fantasize about making the connection. What could I have said to make that woman back there interested in me? How would she have responded if I had said this or that? What would I have said then? I would fantasize over the missed connections and the almost-connections. I had no real consciousness of what I was doing, but doing it made me hurt less.

In fact, I was addicted to lust and what I was doing was feeding my addiction. Each of those attempts at making a connection was a “lust hit.” Whenever I drifted into fantasy, I was inhaling lust. When I was self-medicating on connections, pornography didn’t have to be anywhere in sight for me to feed lust. It also turns out that pornography, and internet pornography in particular, was an extension of my connection addiction. Each new image was a hopeless attempt to connect somehow with the object of my lust. For me, women had lost their identity as women and daughters of God, and had become instead objects for me to use in my never-ending quest for that last great connection that would bring peace and harmony to my universe. I had no concern for what they thought or how they felt, and cared only about how they could make me feel. I only cared about the connection.

The Facebook Nightmare.

This idea of a connection addiction is important for Mormons as we try to understand what works to help those who are now suffering in silence and genuinely don’t understand why they keep getting crushed and dragged under again by their “little problem.” Looking for connections is a way of feeding lust. What this means is that internet flirting is feeding the lust monster. Facebook, in my opinion, is a wide-open opportunity for lust-addicted men and women to indulge in fantasy, connections and relationships, with each interaction providing one more hit of lust. Facebook is a nightmare for lust addicts.

Lust Without Sex.

With this new understanding of the different faces of lust, we can now take a fresh look at the man who leers at women in public places (whether real or virtual) and maybe has a tendency to comment on their appearance and physical characteristics is feeding his lust. If such a guy shrugs, chuckles and says it’s harmless and he isn’t doing anything wrong, we know better and we can clearly articulate what he is doing and why it’s a huge problem.


Comments

The ABCs of Porn Addiction | An LDS View — 82 Comments

    • Shannon, I think it is very rare for someone to overcome this addiction without being able to talk about it with others. I’m sure it happens, but I have only seen true recovery in those who work the 12 Steps and attend regularly. One option is to encourage him to try the phone in meetings. You can find phone in meetings on the LDS addiction recovery website. Start there and work your way into the face-to-face meetings. Also, one word of warning. Resistance to being willing to go to any length to overcome this, even attending meetings with other addicts, is potentially a red flag. All the addicts I know in recovery did not think they needed the meetings — until they were able to swallow their pride and realize that they were addicted. It’s a hard thing for addicts to recognize. It took me 23 years to finally realize it. He’ll find recovery when he wants it. Eventually one will come to the point where the pain of the addiction outweighs the pain of going through true recovery.

      • The answer is yes. It is important that he talks to someone. There are many therapists trained in dealing with sexual addiction.
        My husband had issues with the 12 step program’s process. While it is overwhelmingly accepted, it is not for everyone. Just because it has helped many does not mean it is his only path.

      • Shannon, there is another side of this that everyone ignores. Sex (at its core) is about acceptance rather than wanting orgasm. Guys addicted to porn are often craving acceptance from their partner. Many would prefer acceptance from their partner.

        It is worth lurking on this board: https://www.reddit.com/r/DeadBedrooms/ to see what that might look like from your partner’s point of view. Read to listen and understand. Ask yourself if your partner might be feeling similar feelings. There is so much hurt there. Just think about it.

        While porn is on him, you are not helpless if you wish to support his overcoming it. There was an interesting article about addiction recently: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

        Elizabeth Smart has been speaking out against the Church’s current sex education. I find myself agreeing with her. I was not prepared for a happy sex life within our temple marriage. I still found sex (or aspects of sex) very shameful and didn’t fully understand what sex was for. Sex is of God. Porn is not the only problem. We can do better.

    • Shannon, I’m in two Facebook groups with nearly 1,000 spouses of addicts. We refer to ourselves as WoPAs (wife of porn addicts). Of all those women, I have yet to see one wife, from among those with husbands who won’t go to meetings, say anything to indicate any hope of lasting recovery. Yeah, they go through periods of sobriety. But I’m not seeing any of them actually getting into recovery. Of those who do only phone in or online meetings, I’ve seen maybe one who is actually showing signs of being on the road to recovery, as opposed to just periods of sobriety within the addiction cycle. In person meetings, with a face to face sponsor to work through the steps, appears to be critical to recovery. Yes, they can talk through their issues with a therapist. But only a recovering addict can guide an addict on the path to recovery.

      IMO, if an addict is not willing to step out of his comfort zone to attend meetings, then he is placing a higher priority on his addiction than he is on recovery. If the pain of the addiction has become greater than the pain of the effort and sacrifice required to get into and maintain recovery, he will do whatever it takes to get into recovery, including attending meetings he doesn’t want to attend. If the first SA meeting doesn’t feel like a good fit for him, tell him to try another. But I would try any group for at least a month before deciding it isn’t the right group. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting acclimated. Definitely look for SA, not SAA. The philosophies are very different.

      Here is Andrew’s take on it, from his post “Another Letter to the LDS Woman…”

      “First, those who get into and stay in recovery do four things: complete honesty with their wife or some other person, complete honesty with their bishop, therapy with a professional person experienced in treating sexual addictions, and active participation in an effective 12 Step group more than two times a week. Second, those who don’t get sober and find true recovery don’t do those four things. This is not to say that this is absolutely the only way to get sexually sober and stay in true recovery. I don’t know that it is. What I do know, however, is what I’ve seen and what I’ve seen is that men who stay in recovery do those four things while those who fail to recover don’t do them.”

  1. Any ideas for where single women can get help?

    I’ve tried going to Bishops for over 25 years and they just say, “Uh, well, Sister, this is a man’s problem. We don’t have many women that have this problem.” “There’s nothing i can do for you, ” “What do you want ME to do about it? ” “”No, Sister, I can’t help you. ” etc…. Only one Bishop has even offered his time and then promptly told me that I shouldn’t be needing help because i teach the gospel principles class. He pressured me into a temple recommend and that was it. He insists I’ve done all I can do and i just need to be happy and move on. No help to forsake this ugly sin.

    No 12 step meetings in the area for women. Men only.

    I’ve gone to two professional counselors who offered zero ideas or help (one just wanted to look down my shirt…nothing more…not kidding).

    They say I’m not alone, but that’s news to me. I’ve been screaming for help for 25 years! Where is this supposed help to be found?

    • Please read the book “He Restoreth My Soul” by Dr. Donald L. Hilton, who is LDS. It is amazing and will change your life! Pornography is actually a very common issue even among LDS women! It’s just that most women feel that, just as your bishops have said, it’s just a man’s problem so they suffer very quietly. Lifestar is great! Also, you can attend the general addiction meetings in your area. You do not have to say what addiction you are struggling with but you can go to learn how to use the 12 steps in your life. You can do it! It is very possible!

  2. Great post. I think the one thing that is starting to bother me within the Church is that I am seeing a lot of people become bishops and stake presidents who have no clue how to really get over a porn addiction. They give the usual canned answers of “just pray harder” and things like that. I have kind of given up on seeking them out for help. I still think that talking to SOMEONE is important, but a lot of times the Bishop is the person you should simply “confess” to and not necesarilly “seek out advice” from.

    I know that stats say that there really is a small percentage of men in the world that have never looked at porn or masturbated in their entire lives. I say kudos and good job to these men; but the few guys who I have met in my life that fall into that rare category have only done so simply because they are born with low sex-drives. In other words they didn’t obtain their freedom from porn through “figuring out the secret that the rest of us can’t get”, but were simply born not that interested in sex to begin with. However, alot of these guys in this demographic are the ones made bishops and stake presidents. So when someone comes seeking their help with porn and masturbation, they are absolutely clueless on how to get over it. Some of these clueless leaders I have met can be rather smug and arrogant, but some genuienly want to help. But either way the help they provide is terrible.

    In the military when you have been to war you get to wear a combat patch on your right shoulder on your uniform, signifying that you have been deployed. When a leader gets in front of a large group to give a breifing on how to conduct combat operations, soldiers want to see a combat patch on them. We want to know that they have been in the fight, and speak from expierence. When someone gets up to brief and that right shoulder patch is bare, we often tune them out. They only know of hypotheticals and what the manual says. They have never really fought the fight and been in the battle.

    I guess what I am trying to say is don’t look to your bishop as the end-all/be-all if you are struggling. Honestly, people can tell if they are getting bad advice, regardless of whatever title the person holds who is giving it. If the advice is just say your prayers and read your scriptures, chalk it up as good, but not what you need. Seek out 12 Step programs, or licensed therapist. It is rare to actually find a bishop who really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to getting over porn and masurbation.

    • Bishops and Stake Presidents aren’t trained therapists — they are simply mortal men trying to do their best, just like you and me. As you said, they are there for the repentance part of recovery not to teach us how to stop our behavioral issues.

  3. Thankyou sincerely from the bottom of my heart it is truly amazing that some how the Lord has spoken I earnestly feel through you, thank you..

  4. I can vouch that the 12 step recovery meeting doesn’t work for everybody. I have been attending since 2005 every week. I have yet to overcome this problem. I have yet to go and entire month without relapsing. Can somebody else respond on an alternative route to the 12 step recovery program? Please withhold your judgment on my intention to overcome this or whether my heart is in the right place because I failed to capitalize on the 12 step recovery program from the church.

    • I’d encourage you to jump into Sexaholics Anonymous with enthusiasm. I know a lot of Latter-day Saints who have found solid recovery in the program.

  5. This is the same stuff that I hear every time I go to a meeting:

    It IS possible! You CAN do it!!

    Look, I totally get that motivation and communication are essential toward recovery. That being said as someone trying to get over their sexual addiction, I was hoping that this article would discuss some of the neurological and physiological aspects of hypersexuality and discuss some of the ways you personally overcame it. This is the same thing that is discussed every time the church talks about this addiction. “You can be free again,” that’s great, but it doesn’t help me get over the addiction itself. Same thing with the addiction recovery program. It teaches us how to repent and accept, but only speaks in vague terms when it comes overcoming the addiction that we’re supposed to overcome.

    I’ve tried fasting and praying for these desires to go away, and for a time they do, but it’s never permanent. I’ll be good for a few weeks, but during a stressful semester at college, a lonely moment of weakness, or even just an inappropriate dream, I always succumb to temptation. I’m tired of it. If I’m failing because my faith is weak, I will accept that and work toward improving my faith. Problem is, I have no idea how to do that because no matter how much I strengthen my testimony, no matter how many conference talks I listen to or verses I read, the minute I relapse it all goes away.

    I desperately want to overcome this, and I don’t want to give up without a fight. That includes looking up and attempting every method that righteously to overcome this from different discipline methods, to group meetings, to camps, to therapy, to medication, to hypnosis (with permission from my bishop of course), to surgery, to negative reinforcement, to whatever else is out there. I’m over the crippling depression now and accepted the situation for what it is. Had I read this article last year, it would have raised my spirits and given me the motivation I needed to wake up and accept the day.

    My suggestion is to write another article detailing the methods that you used to overcome your addiction to masturbation and pornography. (I would read it)

    Thanks,
    Matthew

    • There’s a hundred and something posts on this site in which I talk about how my recovery plan works. Here’s the quick version:

      I go to lots of Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. If an SA meeting isn’t available, I sometimes go to AA meetings even though I’m not an alcoholic. I have a sponsor in SA. I have all the SA literature and read it on my own and with friends in the program. I avoid secrecy and isolation. I work the 12 steps as set forth in AA and SA literature.

      I don’t bother with the LDS Church’s addiction program in my area. It’s weak to a point of being useless. Other Mormons have shared similar experiences with their local programs.

      I also don’t pay much attention to the LDS Addiction Recovery Manual. It’s beautifully formatted (and I mean beautifully) but not well written when it comes to talking about addiction. It does an impeccable job of mixing up addiction and sin, recovery and repentance. They’re not the same thing, but the manual talks about them as if they are.

      I always try to remember that my recovery program and my repentance program are not the same thing. My repentance program involves prayer, reading the scriptures, checking in with my bishop and working to fulfill the missions of the Church and the Gospel. My recovery program involves prayer, reading SA and AA literature, checking in with a sponsor, working the 12 steps, working with other addicts in recovery and going to lots and lots of SA meetings.

      I’ve talked with both my bishop and stake president about the weaknesses in the Church’s program. They understand. In fact, my stake president encourages members of the stake to go to SA and S-Anon meetings.

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