The ABCs of Porn Addiction | An LDS View

The Relativity of the Addict’s Reality.

The ABCs of Addiction

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This is one of the huge problems associated with addiction that is wiping out men both inside and outside the Church. But it is a very complicated issue. Like I said, addicts often can’t recognize reality. One of the ways this manifests itself in the addict is when he takes actual truth and warps it to create an artificial reality that fortifies his addictive world.

A good example of this was Elder Ballard’s talk in the October 2010 General Conference in which he talked about addiction. Although he spoke specifically about prescription medication abuse, he made it clear that the principles applied across the board to all addictions. While the talk was dead-on and helped in furthering understanding of addiction in the Church, something happened near the end that was significant. Elder Ballard said that if an addict wants to get over the addiction, “[i]t begins with prayer—sincere, fervent and constant communication with the Creator of our spirits and bodies—our Heavenly Father.” While he was right—recovery can and often does begin with prayer—I thought as I was listening that two things were going on in the minds of addicts in the Church as they also listened to him at that moment. (When I talk about addicts here, I mean addicts who are not in recovery from their addiction. They are either currently acting out on their addiction or merely doing essentially nothing to find and effectively achieve recovery.)

“Lord, Can I Get Over This Problem on My Own?…Um, Never Mind.”

When Elder Ballard uttered that simple phrase, “It begins with prayer,” every addict listening to the message unconsciously added two little words. What they all heard was “It begins and ends with prayer.” Their broken brains tweaked the message enough to continue to justify—at least in their own minds—what they had been trying and failing to do for years: overcome addiction in isolation by means of prayer and willpower. Like I said, Elder Ballard was accurate when he said it all can begin with prayer. If an addict would employ sufficient humility and willingness to offer a simple pray, “Heavenly Father, can I get over this problem on my own, or do I need help from other people?,” the Lord would respond with clarity, “Get help.” The problem is that addicts never ask that question. There are reasons for this that I’ll get to in a second.

The other thing that many addicts were doing as they listened to Elder Ballard was frantically making a list of as many reasons as they could about why Elder Ballard’s message on addiction applied to someone other than them. Until I got into recovery, I didn’t see myself as an addict. Like so many other men in the Church, I genuinely believed that I just had a “little problem,” not an addiction. Eventually, after my behavior progressed and grew more compulsive and when even my broken brain could no longer say that I just had a “little problem,” I was finally compelled to adjust my defective thinking so that now I believed that I was evil, slothful and destined for hell—but I still didn’t think I had an addiction.

The word “addiction” carries with it a host of connotations, one of which is “out of control,” which in turn carries with it the suggestion of insanity. No one wants to admit to insanity for several reasons. Three of the biggest reasons—at least for addicts—are fear, shame and humiliation. The fear leads them to say, “If I am insane, I will lose my job and the ability to provide for my family. I will also lose my wife and I will lose my children because they will not want to stay with an insane person—especially an insane person who is addicted to pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. Finally, the nature of my conduct will cause me to lose my membership in the Church.”

For most married men in the Church, the only three things that truly matter to them are their wife, their children, and their membership in the Church. If they were to admit to addiction, they believe that what would inevitably follow would be the loss of all three. They would be left with none of the sources of joy in their life and instead would have only the source of continuing misery—their addiction. This is why addicts never ask the Lord that question about whether they need help from other people. They don’t want to face a possible reality where they are addicted to sex, unemployed, insane, divorced, estranged from their children, and excommunicated. Instead, they are desperately screaming on the inside, “I can fix this—on my own!”

Three Short Sentences.

Three short sentences are killing Mormon men: “This is my problem to deal with. I created this mess, so it’s up to me to clean it up. Nobody else has to get involved.” As far as addiction is concerned, I don’t think the problem is that Mormon men are refusing to accept personal responsibility. Quite the opposite, I believe nearly every man in the Church currently suffering in silence with his sex and pornography addiction is hiding behind the notion that because he needs to be a man about this and accept personal responsibility, he needs to (or gets to) take care of this on his own.


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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