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

During graduate school, I got my first internet connection and within months had discovered a strange and horrifying new world. What had before required going to a video store or a convenience store was now available in my home—for free. I started binging. My grades suffered. My wife suffered. My sanity suffered. My addiction was patient in its methodical conquest of my will and brain. Still, I fought it. I battled with the ferocity of a man desperate to save his marriage, his family, his career, his financial future, and his soul. Tears, vows to quit for good (I really mean it this time—as if this time will somehow be different from the ten thousand other times I vowed to quit!), confessions to wife and bishop, heart-felt professions of faith in the infinite power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I left every General Priesthood Meeting for twenty-five years inspired and more resolved than ever that I would never allow myself to fall back into that hellish cesspool of misery again. I would stay away for a while, sometimes for years, but like a yo-yo, I always went back. As I said, I stopped ten thousand times. “Stopping wasn’t my problem; staying stopped was.”2

[2I wasn’t the first person to say this, but it certainly describes my situation perfectly.]

I am grateful to a loving Father who answers prayers. When finally I cried, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” He responded, “I will.” Thirty-five years after that first image flipped a switch in my brain, God sent an angel to save me. He came in the form of a long-time friend from back in my mission and college days. Rather than appearing in a flash of heavenly light, he simply spoke with me on the phone. I will never forget his peculiar choice of words. From his own experience, he said, “My friend, your brain is broken.” Wow. It turns out I didn’t lack resolve or sincerity or faith or contrition or humility or a noble pre-earth lineage. My brain was broken, plain and simple. I had an addiction; I was addicted to sex. I couldn’t get over it on my own.

Despite all my solemn affirmations that the Lord was on my side, I later came to learn that getting over this “problem” on my own (i.e., without the Lord) was exactly what I had been trying to do for decades. I was setting up the framework of what I was willing to do and then demanding that the Lord and my addiction comply with my terms. It’s as if I had been praying and saying, “Please, Lord, take this burden away from me! I will do whatever it takes—as long as it doesn’t involve anything more than praying really, really hard with my eyes all squinched up to show how serious I am—oh, and as long as I don’t have to tell anyone!” Effectively, I was saying, “Take this burden away from me, Lord, because I’m not willing to do whatever it takes on my part to get rid of it.”

My friend helped me connect with Sexaholics Anonymous and I have been attending two or three meetings a week ever since. I have a sponsor and frequently talk with him and others on the phone or after meetings. I have been working through the twelve steps based on the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. When I finished the seventh step, my sponsor told me I could now raise my hand in meetings to identify myself as willing and available to sponsor newcomers. I cried.

Sexaholics Anonymous helped me get completely sober for the first time in decades. It saved my life. When I talk about sexual sobriety, I mean nothing more or less than “no form of sex with self or any person other than husband or wife.” Not much ambiguity there. I also mean “progressive victory over lust.” I have been completely sober for long enough now to know that I can remain completely sober for the rest of my life. Like Job, I have experienced “things [that were] too wonderful for me to know.” I can now look at my wife, tell her I’m sober, and see love, trust and happiness in her eyes. It feels wonderful. I told her in a quiet moment a while back, “This is where I always wanted to be.”

In these recent months, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my disease. Much of it I hadn’t wanted to know in the past. Happily, it appears that I now possess sufficient humility and clarity of mind to see that my continued recovery depends on accepting that there is no cure for the disease of sex addiction and that it is a progressive and degenerative disease. This means that it is not going to go away, and that, without treatment, it will get worse with time until it kills me. Giving me great hope, however, is the knowledge that the solution I’ve found in Sexaholics Anonymous stops the progression of the disease and helps me sidestep its effects. This means that I do not presently act out on my disease, and that as long as I work the program of recovery and stay in the solution, I will never act out again. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m cured; it just means that I’ve found a solution to the problem that works.


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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