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

Not long ago, my view of sex addiction was turned on its ear. As I said, I used to think that I was winning the war. Those gaps of several months or even years between bouts of binging on pornography both as a child and as an adult were, to my mind, progressive victories. The way I saw things, I had successfully fought off the adversary for years with only an occasional “slip up.”

For a long time, I figured that the internet connection was what ultimately did me in. Until then, I thought I had things under control—more or less. After all, the Lord was on my side. I assumed that the internet with its easy access to pornography was what led me to become an addict. I thought I had turned the forbidden corner some time in my thirties and it was only then that my “little problem” became a full-blown sex addiction that nearly killed me. I was wrong about this. It turns out I had been an addict since the age of six.

There was a missing link in my understanding of addiction, and that link was fantasy. In my view, fantasy is the part of addiction to which most people, addicts especially, fail to give proper deference. This applies not just to sex addiction, but to every other addiction out there as well. Alcohol, cocaine, shopping, gambling, eating, sex—it doesn’t matter; fantasy is a component of the addiction. It is not a by-product of addiction; it is the very mortar that cements together the cinderblocks of addiction until they become the seemingly insurmountable walls that surround, isolate and imprison the addict. Because fantasy is a component of addiction, it does no good to counsel an addict that the simplest and most effective way to overcome the addiction is just not to think about it. Thinking about it is the addiction!

Consider this: You can’t just tell alcoholics to quit thinking about alcohol and expect that this simple advice will somehow cure them. If it were really that easy, there wouldn’t be any alcoholics. They would all just quit thinking about alcohol, and BAM! problem solved. It turns out that our brains are a little more complex than that. Addiction, too, is more complicated than that. Addiction to a particular substance is not just about the substance. It also involves what the brain is doing prior to the body’s consumption of the substance, during the consumption, and after the consumption of the substance.

Have you ever heard of a “dry drunk”? “Dry drunk” is a term used frequently in Alcoholics Anonymous, often by the members in reference to themselves. A dry drunk is an alcoholic who, although sober and not drinking in the technical sense, is drinking inside his head by means of fantasy. A dry drunk’s thinking becomes muddled and impaired in much the same way that an actual drunk’s brain would be muddled and impaired.

The reason for this is that when the brain begins to think about its drug of choice such as alcohol, it starts secreting pleasure chemicals in anticipation of the arrival of the drug. If the drug never arrives, the brain has to content itself with the self-produced chemicals. They aren’t the drug of choice, but for the addicted brain, they are better than nothing and they have the effect of increasing the mental pressure on the addict to go find some of the “real” drug. A dry drunk can put himself into a drunken stupor by fantasy alone. Usually, he doesn’t know he’s doing this. In fact, he’s probably patting himself on the back about what a good job he’s doing at keeping sober. Not surprisingly, a dry drunk has a much greater chance of becoming a wet drunk than a person who is actually sober.

The classic image is that of the alcoholic sitting alone at the kitchen table. In front of him on the table is a bottle of whiskey. He sits staring at the bottle. His mouth is watering. Sweat drips off his brow. Nevertheless, he is resolute. With determination, even defiance, he growls that he is stronger than the bottle and that he’s not going to give in. He sits there for hours just staring and sweating. Finally his will prevails over the bottle (or so he thinks), and he stands up and walks out of the room.


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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