Hi. My Name Is Andrew and I’m a Lust Drunk | An LDS Look at Porn Addiction

For Mormons, porn consumption has a stronger similarity to whiskey than many suppose. (Photo: Mogens Engelund)

Most people who consume pornography have no idea what it’s doing to their minds, bodies and spirits. Oh, and this is doubly true for many of the Latter-day Saints who binge on porn. They think they’re just “losing the Spirit” for a little while, until they say a prayer and “repent.” They would be–and should be–shocked to discover that their “little porn problem” has quite a bit to do with the Word of Wisdom. I’m serious.

I know of a woman–a grandmother in her mid-60s–who was a life-long alcoholic. One day, she dropped her grandkids off at the pool and on her way home, clipped the sideview mirror of a parked car and then kept driving. Police officers pulled her over in front of her home and administered a field sobriety test. She failed and was arrested.

The police took a blood sample at the station. When the charging document came from the district attorney’s office, it showed that her blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.34 percent. For Mormons, this probably means very little, so I’ll translate. In many states the drunk driving laws say that you’re impaired (legally drunk) if your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. What this means is that this little grandma’s BAC was over four times the legal limit when she was driving and then arrested!

To put this in context, I and pretty much everyone I know and you and pretty much everyone you know would be comatose (or dead) if our BAC hit 0.34 percent. We would certainly no longer be conscious. She was not only conscious but mobile and able to drive a car–not well obviously, but she was driving nonetheless.

It turns out that she is what is referred to as a functional alcoholic. She had been consuming alcohol for so long that she had developed a tolerance for her drug. She had to consume large amounts of it before she could get the numb feeling her addiction demanded. She was impaired but couldn’t feel it.

In the more serious stages of alcoholism, the alcoholic sometimes stashes bottles of booze around the house, in the car, at the office, in the gym locker and pretty much anywhere else where he might find himself, so alcohol is within easy reach. By doing this, he makes sure that he is able keep alcohol in his system all the time. You could say that he is pickled. Those of you who grew up in the 70s and 80s will recognize the term “comfortably numb.”

Think about this: A functional alcoholic goes to a bar and starts knocking down whiskey shots. One, two, three, four. He feels fine. By the time he has consumed five of them, it’s not at all surprising that he’s glassy-eyed, swaying, slurring his words and getting very obnoxious. If he takes a sixth shot of whiskey, he’ll probably notice no change at all in how he feels. When he takes a seventh shot, it’s no different. Although he still feels the same, he’s toasted. An increasing impairment is definitely taking place, but he’s oblivious to it.

Now, take the same guy six months after he’s sworn off drinking. No alcohol in his system for half a year. If this guy now goes to a bar and orders a whiskey shot, that one drink will nearly send him to the moon! His brain will start doing flips inside his skull. His heart will be pounding. His breathing will get deeper. All that from a single shot of whiskey.

So what happened? This alcoholic dried out and lost his tolerance to alcohol. It used to be that he had to take shot after shot before he even began to feel a tiny buzz. Now, one shot just about makes him crazy.

Let’s turn to sex and porn addiction. It turns out that for decades, I was a functional lust drunk. I was addicted to lust in pretty much all its forms. From the moment I woke up in the morning until I closed my eyes at night (and sometimes even in my dreams), I was taking shots of my drug, lust. I’ve already talked a lot about different sources of lust, lust hits, binging, denial and minimization. I did all of that. I consumed lust and, like alcohol, it left me impaired. But I couldn’t feel the impairment.

The reason I couldn’t feel the impairment is because I was pretty much pickled in lust all the time. Just like a high-tolerance alcoholic, I was always lust drunk. It affected me in some sad ways. I would go to raunchy R-rated movies and feel like I wasn’t even phased at all by the sex and nudity. “I’m mature,” I told myself. “See? I can handle this kind of stuff. It doesn’t affect me at all.”

My wife on the other hand could definitely see the effect. Some of it was manifested in our sexual intimacy, but most of it was in the non-sexual parts of our relationship. I was moody, depressed, undependable, short-tempered and distracted. When I was consuming my drug through porn binging, I was like a different person. I couldn’t complete sentences. I couldn’t remember why I’d gone into a particular room. I’d forget to pick her up after work. I couldn’t focus on assignments in graduate school and then couldn’t focus on work in my jobs. I was lust drunk.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m exaggerating? Think porn consumption has nothing to do with the Word of Wisdom? Read Dr. Donald Hilton’s book, He Restoreth My Soul if you haven’t already. He wrote the book that explained to me what my drug did to my brain as a result of my sex and porn addiction. I objectified women without even knowing it, sizing them up and down for potential as a fantasy sex partner. I binged on porn and thought it did little to me other than cause me to “lose the Spirit” for a little while. Like the seventh shot of whiskey, I couldn’t feel the disaster inside me and in my life and marriage because I was inebriated on lust.

Then, I started going to Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. I got a sponsor. I made lots of phone calls to a lot of guys who were further along in recovery than I was. I started working a rigorous and effective 12 Step program. I stopped acting out sexually and with pornography. I got sober.

Controversial shot of an LDS consumer’s shopping cart. Let’s look beyond the case of Diet Coke, however, at the story of sexual sobriety and recovery that it represents.

Something happened about nine months into recovery that made me think about that grandma with the huge alcohol tolerance. My wife and I had gone to the grocery store to do some shopping. We were talking away as we wandered around the store. As we pushed the cart to the checkout, still talking, I suddenly noticed the magazine racks behind my wife’s head. These racks contained all the usual trash magazines with scantily clad women as cover models.

The moment my eyes drifted beyond my wife and focused on a magazine cover, my brain went nuts! It felt like it was doing somersaults. It was awful! I looked at my wife and said, “I can’t be here! I’ll wait for you outside.” Then I walked out of the store.

My wife and I talked about this experience later on. It had never happened before in the more than two decades of marriage and all the couple shopping we’d done during that time. We always talked. I always noticed the magazine covers. It was never an issue. Or was it?

Since my teens, I usually kept myself comfortably numb with lust. Magazine covers had little apparent effect on me because they were simply one more shot of lust to a guy who’d already had ten or twelve lust shots by that time of day–every day! Yep, I was a lust drunk.

Once I dried out, however, my tolerance to lust evaporated as well. As a result, when my eyes went to take in those pictures on the magazine rack and my mind went to take a full-on lust hit, I very literally had an allergic reaction.

Back when this radio was in its prime, listeners didn’t have to worry about shock jocks peddling lust during morning drive time. (Photo by Chia Ying Yang)

When I am sober now, I have an aversion to lust, whether it be in print, on the internet, on the radio or television, in a movie, or in the form of a woman. Lust makes me physically and mentally sick. I can’t handle it and want to get away from it.

On the other hand, what also happens when I’m sober is that I can’t seem to get enough of what I call God-centered feelings and experiences. These things often involve my wife and kids, the Church, the Savior and His Gospel, friends, healthy exercise, focused and effective work at my job, and healthy and appropriate interaction with the people around me. When I am sober, I am at peace.

I now use my reaction to lust “opportunities” or challenges to gauge my sobriety and recovery. I don’t seek them out, of course, nor do I have to. They are all around me every day.

I rarely watch television anymore because the shows and the commercials tend to focus on or interject moments of sex, objectification of women and lust-as-comedy. My recovering brain can’t stand being in that situation. I am careful with the movies I go to with my wife and kids. I’ve noticed that Disney cartoons seem to work best for me these days.

I rarely listen to the radio. I don’t surf aimlessly on the internet. I avoid every site that might be lust-focused even in the least. This includes news sites and sports sites. I am careful about the music I listen to. When I’m sober, I really do have a physical and mental aversion to lust in all its forms. It literally makes me sick.

I suppose some readers will snicker and say something to the effect of, “What a pathetic loser! How is that even a life? I couldn’t stand it if I didn’t get a little ‘eye pepper’ every once in a while! If that’s sexual sobriety, I want no part of it!” This is kind of like the heavy drinker on a stool in a bar who cries forlornly in his beer and rips on his ex-drinking buddy now in AA. He knocks back one more swallow before staggering pathetically for the door, mumbling something about that loser of an ex-friend who went and got all high and mighty with that 12 Step stuff. Sobriety, whether over alcohol or lust, is a victory not a loss! Sobriety feels so much better than inebriation.

In addition, Jesus Christ himself set down the standard with regard to sexual sobriety when he said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The Savior said it; that ends the debate for me at least. Such a standard was, however, unattainable to me before recovery. Looking on real, virtual or fantasy women to lust after them took up a huge portion of my day, every day! Some people will chuckle nervously and say that the Savior’s standard is simply unrealistic. Well not for me and not for other recovering sex addicts!

As a result of my addiction and now my recovery and sobriety, lust doesn’t thrill me anymore. Instead, it makes me ill. It makes me crazy. It makes me horribly unhappy. It makes me want to stay as far away from it as I can. I have been working an effective program of addiction recovery that includes 12 Step meetings through Sexaholics Anonymous and counseling with a therapist who is very experienced in treating sex addiction. Heavenly Father is doing the rest by changing me on the inside where I am unable to change myself.

I am experiencing an evolving and ongoing miracle. I can look at and interact with women and see them not as objects to be lusted after, but as daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. I am able to recognize and appreciate their divine origin and potential. That is a great feeling, and I’ll happily forgo any and all books, magazines, movies, websites, situations, interactions, thoughts, fantasies, locations or people that put that feeling at risk. How insignificant all that “tinkling brass” has become for a recovering addict who used to think he was going die in his addiction and burn in hell.

All Heavenly Father requires is for the addict to become willing to do whatever it takes–and then find some other addicts who are further along in recovery to tell him exactly what it takes. Are you ready to become willing to do whatever it takes? You’re going to like the way you feel! I guarantee it!

Image 1 credit: By Mogens Engelund (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2 credit: By guanaco on Wikimedia Commons (released to public domain)

About Andrew+

Latter-day Saint, sex and pornography addict in recovery, dealing with depression, returned missionary, father of a bunch of kids, graduate degree, self-employed, Book of Mormon reader, writer and thinker. Working on understanding and overcoming resentment, the number one killer of addicts.

Comments

Hi. My Name Is Andrew and I’m a Lust Drunk | An LDS Look at Porn Addiction — 14 Comments

  1. Wow. Andrew. I think this may be my favorite post you have written. Really informative and insightful. The personal experience of the contrast you feel when sober vs. not sober is so, so powerful.

  2. I have a question and would love to hear other peoples thoughts. If an addict is unable to look at the “truth” about their behavior with at least one other person what kind of hope can a spouse have in their husband’s recovery? 30 years of activity and continues to minimize the events, consequences and behaviors. He is “put out” when conversations occur. He is currently in a 12 step program claiming steps toward recovery. Allowing avoidance and trusting lies is what we have done for 30 years. I want to do something different.

    • Joy I hope this gives you some insight in to what your husband is feeling. Your husband is deep in negative self talk. He may not admit that and won’t admit that until he surrenders his pride and starts to be transparently honest with “EVERYONE.” Shame may be such a part of his cycle that even though he may be sober the negative thoughts of “I am a bad person. I am scum. I don’t deserve love.” would stop any man from sharing his true feelings with anyone. The faulty core belief that “If you new the whole story of my life, you would not love me.” screams in his head and so he holds back thinking this will stop the pain for those he loves and for himself.
      I know what he is feeling because I am a recovering addict and have been in those shoes before. When I did step 4 in the 12 steps program, I hated the thought of it. Dreaded it. Absolutely did not want to be that honest with anyone. I have a very inspired and experienced therapist that helped me. It took 5 months to build up the courage to even begin. Once I started I could not stop. I stopped holding on to those “favorite sins”, or the really bad dark truths about my past acting out. I even made a list of things to discuss with the bishop to make sure I had everything. I then took about 4 weeks to write my inventory. My councilor worked with me and read it back to me. I revised for 2 weeks and when it was ready I shared my inventory with my Lifestar Phase 2 group. (see http://lifestarnetwork.org) This is a group of men i meet with every week and to whom I shared my entire story. With their encouragement and support I then met with my wife, her councilor and my councilor and read the inventory again. It hurt, there was pain, and toxic shame. If you ask my wife what it was like she would agree it was bad. However after 2 days of shame and extremely strong negative self talk I surrender the fact that my secrets were now know. I was still here and I was still worth loving. The real feeling of being honest was liberating. The truth was dragged out into the light and bound there to expose it for the ugliness it really is.
      I have been a hard road to follow. As Steven Covey said ” You can’t talk you way out of something you behaved you way into.”
      Joy I hope I helped with some questions and I hope it has opened more. There is help out there. There is hope.

  3. I stumbled onto this site looking for the hymn referenced in Oct 2012 conference about the lower lights shining. This is my 1st article read and it touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing. While I do binge, I’ve been battling this nightmare for a LONG time. I want it to be over. My Bishop and newly found Christian therapist are helping me. I did the 12 step program and my wife treated it like a course of antibiotics – so in her mind, I’ve been healed. I desperately want to be healed. I hope with counseling and this site, I will find the strength of overcome and enjoy the constant companion of the Holy Ghost – this is my fondest dream. Thanks again for your post and your description – it’s powerful.

  4. My name is G.B.and in have come to acknowledge in recent days that I am an addict to lust, porn, masturbation, relationships. I have to do something now before I kill myself. I am reading the book, Rowboat and Marbles which has given me hope. My wife has left me, my children hardly speak to me, or it might be the other way around. I realize now that I have been a functioning addict for many, many years. I just had to write something to get the ball rolling.

    • GB, thanks for coming to the site, reading and commenting. Please don’t give up hope. Please keep in mind that the single most important resource in overcoming addiction is other recovering addicts. These guys know what you’re dealing with, how you feel and what you need to do to overcome the compulsions to act out sexually. Whatever happens, please don’t fall back into that trap that snares so many addicts: thinking that you can overcome this addiction on your own in secrecy and isolation. As a practical matter, you might consider ordering and reading the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous. It is loaded with powerful insights and information about overcoming sexual addiction. Please let me know how things are going. I wish you all the best.

  5. Andrew, my husband is ready for treatment after 20 years of struggling (I’ve known for the last 12 years of our marriage). How do we find a good therapist in our area? How do we know if he needs in or out patient care? Please help!

    • Look for LifeSTAR in your area. If they’re not around, check with marriage and family therapists for recommendations on counselors with experience treating sex addiction. These counselors should be familiar with the LDS/Christian view of sexuality and approach treatment from that perspective. He needs to go to Sexaholics Anonymous and you should attend S-Anon. Get the literature and read as fast and as much as you can. Good luck.

    • If you can not find a Lifestar in your area you can contact them and get into an online group. We have had friends do this. Being humble and recognizing you life has becoming unmanageable is the first step to seeking help.

  6. Andrew, Your insight has been a true godsend. As the wife of addict for the past 3 1/2 years, I have only realized through this amazing website the depth and sincere battle this is. I don’t know how our story will end up. It’s frightening and by far the worst pain I’ve endured as a woman in my life..and I’ve endured a LOT. My husband just attended his first counseling session and SAA meeting this past week. The counselor says he’s in denial because he states he truly feels “this time” as though the “pull” to porn is “gone like never before in his life.” At times I want to be his best friend, and others I want to lashout in the worst way possible. It’s incredibly hard to stay sane. It’s pulled at every fiber of what it means to be a woman and to feel loved, protected and attractive. It makes you question everything in life you’ve believed to be true. The first time I found out about his “little problem” was right after the birth of our first son, the second time after the birth of our second (he’s only 2 months old). It can make you hate a man, and those hurt feelings are nearly impossible to soothe. I pushed him into both counseling and the SAA meetings, so now I keep asking myself if his sorrow is forced as well. He is extremely prideful, but I know he realizes he hurt me deeply and truly IS sorry. Part of this website gives me hope, because of the men who are addressing the issue themselves, the other part is depressing because I have “forced” him to get help or be without his family. Can full recovery happen when it’s forced? How do you really ever trust again with someone who “relapses”?
    If your not flying around the country yet doing workshops and seminars, you SHOULD be! It’s absolutely your calling and I’m very grateful for every word you’ve written. I WANT to be a success story Andrew, not in tears 20 years from now. If you have any great words for how to deal as a wife, please let me know. I think about all the women who are suffering in silence and my heart aches for us.

    • I understand your concern of “sanity” and continually wondering if your spouse will fully recover when he was not the one that went seeking recovery. How he got into a recovery mode matters not. What HE does with this his addiction at this point is up to him. The key to peace and sanity now is what YOU do with YOUR recovery! Now is when you seek out, pray, ponder, study, cling, to gospel principle and the tools found in a good “LDS family support group” S-anon, and other Christian/LDS based books and seminars designed to help YOU in YOUR recovery. SAlifeline is a great resource also. You have done your duty as a true “help meet” you have “helped” your loved one come out of the dark and start to atleast look into the glorious healing light of the Savior! Now it is up to him to manage and control HIS recovery and you focus on YOURS! This is when you turn him completely over to your God, Let Go and Let God! Now is when you focus on YOUR own recovery from the “Tsunami of addiction” that has struck you and your family! I testify there is peace, hope, healing and sanity as YOU work on YOU!

      P.S. I have been called to be the facilitator for the churches first official conference call “Family Support Group!” I know with small children it is very hard to get out to meetings for yourself. This phone conference meeting should help with that, providing you with a safe place to heal! It should be up and running this month!
      My heart to Yours!
      Laureen

      • I appreciate your comments and the counsel to focus on our own healing and recovery (as wives). I realize that I can do nothing to MAKE my husband recover. However…just focusing on my own recovery and healing has its limits if there is going to be another “tsnuami”. Always waiting for the next wave to hit, no matter how strong my own recovery has been, does not guarantee peace and sanity. That is my big challenge right now. I am in a similar boat as hopefulheart…I just had our 4th baby and have discovered my husband is still in the thick of the lies. With 4 kids, including one with special needs, the options are: 1.stay with spouse and HOPE he recovers (and try and recover myself), but face the risk of him NOT recovering, and live with the repercussion of his choices on me and our children (and him); 2. Leave with 4 kids and no way to really provide for them and me; or 3.stay and he DOES recover and we heal our marriage together. While #3 is clearly the best option, my odds for peace and sanity are only 1/3. It’s hard to have a lot of hope based on anything stable at this point.

        • Im there too C. Once you realize the severity of this problem, its nearly impossible as a woman to mentally have a sane life. My husband gets violent when u point out the fact that I no longer want to be in the marriage. I love him, but I love me too. I cant fix his issues. Now, I just need to get out without being harmed. Most of these men have control and mental issues(no offense Andrew, u know my situation), so again, chances of recovery unless they are desperately seeking it and willing to go above and beyond, means it won’t happen. My hubby can pray and read scriptures ALL day and im absolutely sure he will not recover. Its much more than that. Knowing he’s unwilling to go all out makes me have nothing but sympathy for him. Its pathetic. Im still angry at my circumstance, but I also put myself there by being blind to his issues and being codependent. It can be mase better for u mentally when u work on yourself but it’s a majot drag dealing with the highs and lows of this problem. Im done. Don’t get me wrong, it breaks my heart for me and our family but I’m not the best I can be staying with him. I feel sorry for our boys and our financial situation, but I will rise above it- and so can you. Decide to rise above it. You will have good days, bad days, crying days, strong days, you will cave and its very twisted, this relationship and “love” but take it one day at a time.

        • Oh, and I used to be hopefulheart:-) , now im sexaddictionsucks. It does. Twists the brain like nothing else. Oh, also I heard something that has helped me and while some may not agree “The one who cares the least, wins!” To me my fellow sister, that keeps my perspective in caring less than he does. If you rack your brain with it, it will destroy you spiritually and have effects all over your life. Use that philosophy when dealing with these men. You cant consume yourself with it, otherwise you will lose, and you ABSOLUTELY DESERVE TO WIN! Love you!