LDS View | Porn Addiction Is Like a Muck Fire in My Brain

Why merely stopping the porn binging isn’t enough.

IN FLORIDA, FIRE DEPARTMENTS have to deal with an unusual type of blaze called a muck fire. Muck is dirt that contains a lot of decomposing plant material and is usually found under lakes or swamps. Occasionally, when the water table goes down, the muck can dry out. As the chemical process of decomposition progresses, muck generates heat. Finally, when lightning strikes or someone carelessly tosses a cigarette out the window on the highway, the muck can ignite.

Muck fires pose a serious complication for firefighters. Unlike regular forest fires, a muck fire burns underground. It can’t be seen, although it can be smelled. The firefighters try to control above-ground forest fires by building fire breaks. They have to be vigilant to control the fire. If they see a hotspot getting ready to cross the break, they focus their equipment on that area to prevent the fire from jumping. The problem with muck fires is that because they travel underground, they can pass right below the firefighters and the fire breaks and spring up on the other side to start another blaze above ground.

A muck fire can burn for months, even years. It smolders quietly, often without anyone being aware of it. When dry weather creates the right circumstances, the muck fire pops out of hiding and starts another forest fire. Once firefighters locate a muck fire, they need to till the soil to churn up the embers and get them out in the open where they can be extinguished. Because of its makeup, however, some muck can even be resistant to water. It is a difficult problem to handle. If firefighters aren’t vigilant or leave too soon, they can later discover that the fire really wasn’t extinguished; it just went underground.

A muck fire is a lot like fantasy in the mind of a sex addict who is trying to control his behavior and avoid acting out on his addiction. Like a firefighter, the addict thinks he can watch vigilantly to make sure the fire of his addiction stays in a controlled burn mode. If temptations to act out arise, he tries to douse them or smother them. Eventually the fire of compulsion and desire subsides and the addict breathes a sigh of relief because he thinks he has won another round in the battle with his addiction. Through vigilance and firm resolve, the addict comes to believe that he has taken control of the fire. Little does he suspect that his addiction has muck fires of its own. And just like the muck fires, it turns out that his addiction has merely gone underground.

My first exposure to pornography came at age six. An older boy in my neighborhood showed a magazine to me as a means of grooming me so he could molest me. My next exposure came at age eleven when I found a magazine as I was emptying the kitchen garbage in a dumpster down the row from our townhouse. I hid it in the bushes in my backyard. I went back to look at it a couple times, but since I knew it was wrong, I took it and threw it back in the dumpster. When I couldn’t get the images out of my mind, however, I eventually returned to the dumpster, fished out the magazine and hid it in my backyard again. At some point, the magazine lost its allure and then I threw it away for good.

I was thirteen when two friends and I found a magazine in the orchard behind our homes. Some other kid had hidden the magazine in the old stacked fruit bins we used to climb around in. We looked at it together and then went our separate ways for the day. I returned later in the evening and moved the magazine to another location so no one else could take it.

I was again exposed to pornography at ages sixteen, seventeen and eighteen. Later, during my two-year mission for the LDS church in a European country, I frequently had to avert my eyes as I walked down the sidewalk to keep from gazing at the pornographic poster ads pasted on what seemed like every bit of outside wall space in the city. Newspaper stands also presented a problem with the covers of raunchy magazines hanging right at eye level when I walked by.

Once I realized what my eyeballs had latched onto, I fought the compulsion to look twice. Usually I prevailed and was rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction, as though I were bigger and stronger than the smut, and so imbued with God’s power that I could not fail to win the battle if not the entire war. How naïve I was. Satan must have had a lot of good laughs as he watched me in my earnestness, fighting the good fight. Satan could afford to be patient. He understood muck fires. I didn’t.


Comments

LDS View | Porn Addiction Is Like a Muck Fire in My Brain — 9 Comments

  1. Pingback: How LDS Husbands Can Overcome Porn Addiction | Recovery is Possible!RowboatAndMarbles.org

  2. Fantasy is practice, rehearsal for the actual act. Thinking and visualizing aobut performing an activity increases our skill even without ever physically performing the activity. Any fantasy of lust, therefore, is keeping the practice alive and well, in preparation for the final acts. Spark becomes fantasy, fantasy becomes planning, planning becomes actions, until the cycle takes on a life of its own.

  3. I am admitting that I have a porn addiction, and I am doing everything I can to overcome my addiction and live a clean, sober life. I understand that fantasy is bad and it is thoughts that are precursory sin. But my question is that if I think about my wife and I having intimate relations is that considered fantasizing? Am I understanding this correctly when I say that I am at work or deployed and think about how much I miss being intimate with my wife that I am still feeding my addiction? I am just confused, because I feel that fidelity in the mind and of the heart are equally important; but I see nothing wrong with imagining a that facet of our love when we are apart. I don’t spend hours, or even minutes on it, but I think “I miss her, or I cant wait to be reunited for you know what.” These thoughts and urges seem normal to me, human nature to be attracted and to physically want your spouse. Its not all about sex either, its the emotional connection that goes along with it.

    • BB: Thanks for the comment. You bring up an important point–several of them actually. I don’t think the very idea of “fantasy” is so much of a problem for me, although I know others who completely stay away from any kind of fantasy because that’s what works best for them. I read Tolkien books with my son before he goes to bed at night. That’s complete fantasy, but it’s not an issue because it’s not about lust.

      My problem is with lust. When I’m not sexually sober, I try to get lust into my mind in any way I can. Stories about hobbits don’t incite lustful thoughts in my brain. In contrast, fantasizing about sex–even with my wife–does incite lustful thoughts and it’s a pretty slippery slope once I go down that path.

      I had to get out of the mindset of convincing myself that if it involved my wife, it had to be OK. Lust means harmfully using other people or things for selfish purposes to fill up what’s lacking inside myself and without regard for the effect on them or myself–even my wife. Since I’m a lust addict and one of the ways I get my drug is through lust fantasy, fantasy about sex with my wife is harmful to me. My addiction is so dangerous that I have to live in reality in order to stay alive. If I don’t, my addiction could kill me. I don’t have the luxury–if you want to call it that–of lusting after my wife in my fantasies. Lust will destroy me after it destroys my marriage–or maybe before.

      I’m not telling other people how to live when I say this. What works for me may not work for others. What is necessary for me may not be necessary for others.

      My goal as a lust addict is the eliminate lust from my life because lust is deadly to me. Sexual fantasy overwhelms me with lust. It messes me up. So I have to stay away from it. Gratefully, recovery from addiction allows me to do just that.

      If you’re like me, I thinks it’s important that you see the distinction between intimacy and lust. I think you make that very distinction at the end of your comment when you acknowledge that thinking about your wife isn’t only about sex, but also the emotional connection–love.

      In other words, it sounds like you’re talking about the whole package of marital intimacy. You’re not talking about lust, at least I don’t think you are. It just seems to me that there’s a big difference between what you’re talking about and what the lust addict would be dealing with as he fantasized about sex with wife–and the neighbor and the co-worker and the porn star from the porn videos and the anonymous fantasy women–and then says, “I need sex. I’d better run home and get my wife to give it to me.” Big difference.

      Again, the problem for me is lust fantasy. It doesn’t help me deal with my addiction. It doesn’t improve my relationship with my wife. It doesn’t make me happy.

  4. Thank you for the quick reply and answer. I guess where I struggle is as I hand this over the Lord and do everything I can to work toward recovery is finding the fine line. As you stated it’s not going to be the same for everyone, and the same thing will not work for everyone. As I have read through your great articles here, I often feel overwhelmed as that this will never end, but I put faith in the Lord that I can be made whole. How? I don’t know, but I believe it can happen. I know that is will take everything on my part and He will do the rest. But I digress; I am new to this concept of being a lust addict. When I read your articles sometimes I feel as though I might be, then other times I don’t think I am. I don’t think about other people, or fantasize about doing things with anyone but my wife. I don’t see someone on the street and log them away for later. I don’t revert to images that I have been exposed to when I get stressed, or anxious, or anything. But I do know that if I am in a position to find pornography it takes everything in my body to not look. And I assume that this is lust, I mean why else would I have trouble not looking? But I do feel urges to be intimate with my wife, is this lust? If I got a “need” and she can help? I mean it’s not that I want to be with someone else when I have these urges, just human and have desires. I don’t feel like I am using her for ill or selfish purposes, and I don’t think she feels that way. But with something like alcoholism I imagine that it’s easier (forgive me if I offend anyone, I am trying to express my idea the best way I know how) to regulate. You don’t drink, ever. Never, ever, ever! That’s it! You’re done! You can’t enjoy it occasionally like a “normal person”. All alcohol is bad, and cannot be entertained. But with sex addiction, if you are married, it’s ok to have those feelings. You can do those things within reason and limits; there is no ultimatum like dealing with drugs or alcohol. So where is the line? I guess I am having trouble figuring out when these urges are normal, and when they are not. When they are acceptable to act upon, and when they are of the devil. Cause right now I feel guilty and shameful about doing anything with my wife and I don’t know if I will ever feel ok with those urges. Maybe with time things will work out. How do you react to urges that are of Satan when you do decide that is what it is? All I know to do is think of something else, leave the area, work out; something. But this is one of the hardest things for me to do is to “switch my brain to a different channel” when I see an image unexpectedly. I understand how you feel you will die if you are not carful. I feel the same way, and it terrifies me. I am afraid to fail again, so deathly afraid.

    • BB: Don’t feel overwhelmed. Keep reading. Keep thinking about what you’re reading. And then keep praying and asking the one big question, “Lord, can I get over this problem on my own or do I need other people to help me?” I felt overwhelmed at the beginning of my recovery and that’s where a bunch of guys in Sexaholics Anonymous stepped in and shared with me their experience, strength and hope so I didn’t have to travel the path alone. They made all the difference.

      You also need to remember to ALWAYS make the distinction between lust-driven sex and lust-free intimacy. Lust-free intimacy–which can involve sex with a spouse–is godly, uplifting and is absolutely, completely satisfying in all respects. It is also difficult for people who have spent years of their lives drowning in lust to figure out what lust-free intimacy is all about. For them, sex is so hooked into lust that they think lust-driven sex is as good as it gets. They’re wrong.

      You’re right to look to the analogy of alcoholism. But ask yourself this: If you’re an alcoholic, is it OK to drink alcohol as long if your wife if present? The answer, of course, is NO. Having your wife there doesn’t make the alcohol any less dangerous to the alcoholic. Now ask yourself a similar question: If you’re a lust addict, is it OK to consume lust as long as your wife is present? The answer is the same: NO! Lust destroys love. Lust addiction destroys marriages and eventually individuals.

      So what do we do? We learn to spot lust in our lives and eliminate it. We get the help of other recovering addicts to teach us and support us. We repent and involve well-informed priesthood leaders as necessary. We forsake the sin of lust and as we do so, we feel the power of Christ’s atonement changing us on the inside where we had failed to change so many time before.

      As we get rid of the lust in our hearts, minds and lives, what remains is lust-free intimacy–and I promise you it crushes lust-driven sex like a grape.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. As a daughter of a sex addict it helps me understand the severe mental struggle that my father had to battle. It’s helped soften my heart from feeling of anger and mistrust, to feelings of empathy and sadness for what a ferocious battle it really is. It’s also helped open myself up to forgiveness. Understanding and education really is the key for prevention for the future priesthood holders of the church.

    For those of you who continue to struggle with sexual addiction, please remember you wives, daughters, and sons. Educate and warn your sons and make sure that they don’t have to go through the same thing.

  6. Hi Andrew and fellow readers. First of all, thank you for moderating such an awesome and informative website, both for spouses and those of us suffering. I have been in the program for three years now and am grateful for my recovery and sobriety. I am far enough along now in my recovery that I no longer desire any of the things I used to move mountains for: porn, massage parlors, escorts, none of it. I have seen how destructive that garbage is and I don’t want any part of it! One thing that does keep coming up and is a major frustration to my girlfriend and I is the involuntary stuff that is as unwelcome as it is automatic. Things like a quickening pulse when a lady comes on the television. Not even provocatively dressed or anything, just a person there that happens to be a woman. Does anyone struggle with this stuff too, and how do you deal with it?

  7. I may not have reached the answer to this question….but I want to know how this changes a person. I have heard of manipulation, financial debt, anger, emotional abuse towards spouse etc. and why is it one way for one and not the other? I know we are all different…but I would think this type of thing has some generalities. My husband can be so mean to me. He has been since the beginning of marriage. Anyway, I want to hear what it does to a person. And how us women are supposed to stand up to that constant oppression.

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