Finding out that I was a sex and pornography addict was one of the most important events in my life. As a lifelong and devout Latter-day Saint, I can say that it surely wasn’t the happiest day for me, but I can also say that that single day has led to the longest and strongest period of happiness that I have ever enjoyed in my life. I am happy today and I am happy and hopeful when I look to the future. I am becoming the man that I’ve always wanted to be! How’s that for words of hope from the mouth of an LDS porn addict?
Let me explain. I am not only an addict, but I’m also a cancer survivor. Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with stage-III lymphoma. I was thirty-five. My wife and I had four kids. The oldest was seven years old and the youngest was four months old. I ran my own business. I didn’t consider myself a strong candidate for cancer. Still, my body was doing funny things like producing a lump under my jaw and I just wasn’t feeling well. I went in for some checkups and the doctor ordered up a biopsy. I will never forget the phone call I got on Friday afternoon from my head-and-neck surgeon. He was old school. He got right to the point and said, “I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that you have lymphoma. The good news is that now that we know what it is, we can treat it.”
I remember thinking at the time, “What do you mean good news? I’ve got cancer! I don’t see any good news!” With the benefit of the passing of time, however, I understand now that he was probably more correct than even he realized. I was sick with an illness that was taking over my body and it was going to kill me. If I had just continued plugging along and ignoring the symptoms, I would have died. I was at death’s door as it was. So to survive, I had to find out what was wrong with me so that I could get the help I needed to get well.
The treatment was miserable. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The chemotherapy left me exhausted, unable to sleep, depressed, unable to exercise, with sores in my mouth and a whacked out gastrointestinal track. But the treatment saved my life! It was about half way through the chemo that I began to believe–not just hope–that I actually would recover. Even though the rest of the treatment was difficult, I was able to look beyond it to a healthy life with no cancer. And then one day I actually achieved that healthy life with no cancer.
Now, relating my cancer diagnosis to sex and pornography addiction, one of the things that is wiping out so many LDS men (and others throughout the world) is denial of what the addictive behavior is actually doing to the addict and those around him. We’re not talking about denying that pornography is wrong. We are talking about the denial of being addicted. The porn addict has a big spiritual/mental/emotional/physical/neurological lump under his jaw that he just can’t get rid of. It is killing him slowly. He needs to have it treated to overcome it. If he denies that there are any symptoms or that they are impairing him, he won’t get treatment for his disease.
Recovery is possible, but it can’t happen without the treatment. Treatment can’t happen unless there is a diagnosis. For the sex and pornography addict, the diagnosis comes on the day when he looks back on his life and realizes that all his attempts to overcome the “little problem” have failed. He is no closer to “curing” himself of his compulsion to consume porn than he was five years ago, or ten years ago or even twenty years ago. In fact, the compulsions have grown worse. Addiction is always progressive and it is always degenerative. Always, that is, unless the addict gets himself into an effective program of recovery. Like chemo for the cancer patient, a program of recovery for the porn addict will save his life–and it will save his soul.
When you run into an LDS guy in recovery from his porn addiction (more and more of them are out there; you can spot them by the confident but humble smile on their face), ask him about that fateful day when he first came to realize that he was truly an addict and that he couldn’t overcome his addiction on his own. I expect that his experience will mirror mine. As I said, it was not the happiest day, but it may have been the most important day of my life. On that day, when I hit rock bottom, I was able to see the diagnosis: addiction. And then I was able to get help and get well.