LDS Porn Addicts Speak a Foreign Language and the Rest of Us Need to Learn It

When I turned nineteen, I took my summer savings, bought two suits at Mr. Mac and ordered two pairs of Rockports DressWalkers–and a two-year supply of socks. On the appointed day, I showed up at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and spent the next two months in an intensive training program from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

While there, I spent many hours each day learning the language I would speak for the next two years. But in order to best share the Gospel in another language, I also needed to learn how to teach. It would do me little good to speak the language well if I had no idea how to share my testimony and help others feel and recognize the Holy Spirit as they learned about Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. I had to learn to speak the language with my head and to bear testimony of Jesus Christ with my heart.

Bon jour, Mormons! Parlez-vous AddictSpeak? If you don't, you need to learn it!

Parlez-vous AddictSpeak? If not, you might consider learning it so you can understand what Mormon porn addicts are really saying.

As Mormons, we put a huge amount of emphasis on communication. Our evangelical commission requires it. But there is one language that for whatever reason, we have overlooked. A huge portion of the Church population speaks this language fluently and yet the rest of us remain stumped about how to get through to them. I’m talking about AddictSpeak, the language of choice of LDS sex and pornography addicts.

AddictSpeak has many similarities to English, but they are not the same thing. Because of the similarities, addicts and non-addicts in the Mormon Church often think they are communicating effectively when, in fact, they are talking past each other. This miscommunication explains in part why we have the same addiction mess on our hands that afflicts nearly every other community in North America.

Mormons need to learn to translate AddictSpeak as spoken by porn addictsAs a recovering sex and pornography addict and a Latter-day Saint, I have spent years studying AddictSpeak and consider myself something of an expert. If there was a certification for AddictSpeak translation, I would be have my card framed and hanging on my wall. If you ever need me to translate a loved one’s AddictSpeak, please don’t hesitate to call on me.

The basics of AddictSpeak are actually quite simple. Here they are:

1. Addicts lie when they’re not in recovery. Therefore, if they’re not working a serious, vigorous and visible addiction recovery program that involves lots of meetings with other addicts who are further along in recovery than they are, you should assume they are lying when they talk about their problem. (Tough words, but true words. Sorry, I wish it could be otherwise.) For example, “I haven’t looked at porn in a long time” actually means “I looked at porn recently.” “Porn is no longer a problem for me. I prayed and the compulsions went away” means “Porn remains a problem for me because I’m addicted and can’t beat it on my own, in isolation and secrecy.”

2. The term “pornography” should be translated to read “pornography and masturbation.” Therefore, “I looked at porn recently” really means “I looked at porn and masturbated recently.”

3. Similarly, “occasionally” means “frequently” and “never” means “always.” “I only look at porn occasionally, but I never masturbate,” should be translated to read, “I look at porn frequently and always masturbate. I just can’t bear to tell you that because I think the shame and humiliation would kill us both.”

4. Take anything the addict says about the length of his porn problem and multiply it by twenty. For instance, when the addict says, “Pornography never really became a problem for me until about six months ago. Before that, I had it under control,” what he is really saying is, “Porn has been a problem for at least ten years (6 months x 20 = 120 months). I just can’t bear to tell you that because I think the shame and humiliation would kill us both.”

5. Take anything the addicts says about the last time he looked at porn (or engaged in masturbation) and divide it by twenty. Example: “I haven’t looked at porn in over ten months,” actually means, “I haven’t looked at porn or masturbated in the last two weeks.”

6. AddictSpeak focuses on maximizing the twin addiction components of secrecy and isolation. For instance, when an addict says, “I deal with my ‘little porn problem’ with lots of prayer and scripture study,” what he is really saying is, “I deal with my ‘little porn problem’ with lots of prayer and scripture study because that allows me to stay isolated while at the same time giving the appearance that I’m dealing effectively with my compulsions.” That’s a pretty loaded and complicated statement to make. You can see why addicts would prefer just to say, “I deal with my ‘little porn problem’ with lots of prayer and scripture study.”

7. AddictSpeak puts huge–absolutely enormous–emphasis on the notion of willpower. This is actually more of a corollary of Rule 6. “If I declare forcefully to my bishop or spouse how hard I’m working and how massive my willpower is, they will leave me alone (more isolation and secrecy for me) because I appear to be saying the right things.” When an addict says he’s overcoming pornography by means of “willpower,” “strength” or related terms, those are gigantic red flags and you should assume he’s lying and hoping to disappear back into secrecy and isolation.

8. If addiction requires secrecy and isolation, then the opposite is true about recovery: It requires openness and interaction with recovery experts and other addicts who are further along in recovery. It requires being engaged honestly and openly with others. Unless the addict exhibits openness and interacts frequently with many people in his recovery program, you should assume that he is speaking AddictSpeak and therefore lying to you about his recovery.

9. Addicts translate everything into AddictSpeak so they don’t actually hear what the rest of us hear. This rule is most apparent when addicts listen to a General Authority make any kind of statement about addiction recovery. For the addict in denial, the most important words in the statement are always the “special exit words for addicts in denial.”

For instance, Elder Russell M. Nelson had this to say about porn addiction: “In time, addictions enslave both the body and the spirit.” The “special exit words for addicts in denial” were “in time.” After translating to AddictSpeak, addicts only heard that it takes time to become addicted and concluded therefore that they were not yet addicted because they will stop “in time.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard said in a 2010 talk on addiction, “Priesthood leaders can help as those with addictions seek counsel from them. Where necessary, they can refer them to qualified licensed counselors and LDS Family Services.” The “special exit words” that all addicts heard and fixated on were “where necessary.” After translation, the only thing addicts heard was that referral to professionals was unnecessary for individuals of their enormous spiritual stature.

10. Addicts see themselves as exceptions to the rules. They don’t have to work a recovery program like the weaklings in 12 Step programs. They can handle this problem on their own, in secrecy and isolation, even though very likely no one has ever overcome this addiction on his own. They don’t have to learn about addiction and recovery because they’re already smart enough. They are smart enough and spiritual enough to convince bishops and stake presidents and spouses that everything’s under control. Whenever an addict suggests in any way that he doesn’t need to do things the way other addicts have to do things, that’s another huge red flag that you’re listening to AddictSpeak. Beware the AddictSpeak!

OK, there you have it. A primer on AddictSpeak. If you master those ten simple rules, you may not be able to speak it fluently yourself, but, boy, you’ll sure know when someone else is trying to fool you into thinking he’s actually speaking English.

Remember that with God all things are possible. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can and does extend the Savior’s healing power to all including penitent sex and pornography addicts. The single most important factor in whether an addict will get sober and stay sober is his willingness to associate with other addicts further along in recovery. And recovery is possible for those who become willing to do whatever it takes–and it is fabulous!

Image 1 credit: By Eustress (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image 2 credit: By HjalmarGerbig (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image 3 credit: By Jesse Burgheimer [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

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

LDS Porn Addicts Speak a Foreign Language and the Rest of Us Need to Learn It — 18 Comments

  1. Another great read, Andrew. I recognize a lot of this from my past. And I can almost taste the guilt that I felt when I thought or spoke some of those words. I wasn’t honest. How liberating it has been for me to deal with these things head on, through my PASG friends and SA brethren. I’m comfortable realizing that my addictions will last me for my lifetime, and that I’ll always have to rely on God, on the Atonement, and on my reaching out to keep me sober. And what is wrong with that?! Nothing! That is exactly as it should be!
    Despite my flaws, which are many, I’m feeling the peace that comes with being honest with myself, with God, with my Bishop, and my friends from PASG and SA. And I’m starting to see when “Addict speak” starts to come into the conversation, especially with folks new to each program. Working hard every day to stay sober…3+ months now, and going….

  2. Andrew, this has been so insightful. I even read it to my husband after asking for his honesty for what seems like the hundreth time. Each time I get a little more of the whole truth, but never in its entirety. I dont even know how to proceed. He tries to make me think he is different and I am the crazy one. Its exhausting.

  3. Mr Scabs and I are dying laughing here cause we have experienced all of this! IN fact some of the “Addict Speak” that we’ve experienced has become somewhat of an inside joke between us. I learned early on to multiply everything he says by 20–at least when he’s not in visible recovery.

    some of my favorites are:

    “I haven’t looked at porn in a long time” long time=24 to 48 hrs
    “I can’t believe these men who go to prostitutes and then go home to their beautiful wives and children” = I am that man.
    “I’m not an addict. I don’t like labels.” = I’m terrified and don’t know how to stop hating myself.

    Very real, kind of funny, but extremely painful when your in the middle of it.

  4. I love my husband. I have been feeling like he loves his lies as much as he loves his pornography. He is so bold in his claims of not sleeping with other women, not looking at porn as much as ‘other guys’, and he has not looked at porn since last time he looked at porn. (Which I am sure is true, but he will not share when the ‘last time was’). I give up. If he wants to live a double life I accept. I really have tried everything I know. Books, counseling (for myself, he doesn’t need any), lots of sex, being quiet and giving him the space he needs, pleading him to get help and staying close. As I sit here today, after 5 years of hell it feels like he has not even budged. He quit going to church, but that was my fault. He is back to going to church, cause he really never had a problem. He is in a 12-step program because his wife and Bishop think he needs to go. As I write this all down I can see how helpless our situation feels. Thank you Andrew. I pray someday my husband will seek help.

  5. I guess it comes down to the same old thing, you can’t ever tell someone you are or aren’t something. It only comes by the example you set. That is the true testimony of recovery/commitment to an ideal or goal.

  6. Hi Andrew! I am happy to report that I am taking your message to heart, hopefully in time to spare me some of the really awful consequences! I am working toward starting an SA group locally, and have been happily sober for over a month. Thank you for sharing what you have learned so far!

  7. I am looking for information to help my 19 year old son who has worked on his addictions for the past year with the hope in being worthy to serve a mission. Most of your info is for adult men who are married. We really need to work on the youth so that they wont have problems in their marriage.

    • I agree that Latter-day Saints need to do more to help the rising generation avoid or overcome the pornography plague. I have heard good things about Maurice Harker’s program, “The Sons of Helaman.” Here’s a link to the website. Please share as you become aware of additional resources.

      • I have been participating in the Lifestar program for a little over a year now. It has literally SAVED MY LIFE. I know that the counselors that started this program have worked on a youth program called Youthstar. I don’t know all the details, but I believe that it is a well thought out program. It has workbooks and it involves the parents as well as the youth. If it is anything like the Lifestar program, it will be a lot of education and looking deeply into your life and finding the underlying roots of the compulsive and addictive behaviors. Here is a link to the site: http://lifestarnetwork.org/youthstar.html

  8. Thanks for making this all encompassing for porn addicts. Now my wife thinks I’m not in recovery, because even though I’m in recovery she thinks I’m lying about it. Brilliant research.

    • Doug: This website has made a lot Mormon marriages very uncomfortable. I believe strongly that LDS women have, among other things, two fundamental rights. One is a right not to be lied to by their husbands. Unfortunately, this right is not often enjoyed because far too many LDS men have established a years-long or even decades-long track record of dishonesty when it comes to pornography.

      The other is a right to possess tools that allow them to recognize when their husband is lying to them about pornography consumption and compulsive sexual behavior. With those tools, LDS women can protect themselves from the chaos and insanity that necessarily follow in the wake of the husband’s “porn problem.” They can learn to spot when they are being lied to and how to deal with a husband who has a history of dishonesty, porn consumption and lust-driven behavior. They can get off the “crazy train” even if the husband wants to keep playing the game of pretending it’s not really a problem.

      Since you’re in recovery, you’ll be familiar with the promises contained in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. One in particular is applicable here. Those in true recovery from their addictions “will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle” them. I am confident that your recovery will provide you the intuition you need to deal with the problems this website has apparently caused you in your marriage. I wish you all the best.

      • I have had a similar response with my wife not trusting what I tell her in my recovery. This was hard for me to deal with in the beginning as well. I kept thinking “is she EVER going to trust me again?”. Something that helped me greatly was realizing that I had been speaking and living AddictSpeak to her for 10 years (and another 10 before I met her). The hurt and mistrust was NOT going to heal in a matter of months! I realized that it is my job to learn to provide my wife with safety, and not hers to just “get over”. This is extremely hard to do! It is my job to be truly open and honest with her. It is my job to try and empathize with her when she can’t believe me or triggers on something I have said or done. I am ready to do this for YEARS, not just months. The hurts I have caused are deep and I must give her the time it takes to heal them.

        One other point of AddictSpeak that was a common dialect for me was the dialect of generalities. I was a pro at speaking in generalizations. I now try to avoid these like the plague. It always throws up a red flag for my wife when I do this. I now give specifics rather than generalities like “I am having a hard time”, or “I am doing well”. However, this level of honesty and openness is difficult in other ways, and we are getting help in the process by a professional counselor. Providing specifics has really helped her see how I deal with triggers and that I am not keeping secrets. It is helping build trust in my recovery!!!

        • Thank you for this, Nate. My husband is like this and it definitely sends up a red flag, some times more than others. Although, as you implied, I think the reason for his inability to speak more specifically is due to his difficulty with his emotions and connecting emotionally with me, since that is “a” in the equation of sex addiction, it tips me off that something is going on, or is about to. When things got really bad, he wouldn’t get very specific about where he had been or what he’d been doing, which is now the biggest “generalization” that freaks me out, since discovering that he traveled long distances (hours) while I was at work just to go to a completely inappropriate party, and rush back before I got home from work. Talk about extreme efforts for a fix. He also only had access to porn on an unsupervised computer at work, so when I’d ask what he’d been up to at the office, generalizations made/make me very suspicious. Or when he puts something vague on his calendar, it’s hard not to go online and find out what’s happening nearby on that day/time.

  9. Pingback: Four Big Reasons Why LDS Porn Addicts Love to Misquote Boyd K Packer

  10. When I first read this post (when you posted it), it didn’t sit well with me. I thought it was too harsh.

    Now I know it wasn’t. It is really insane sometimes to see the lengths addicts will go.

  11. I have a question….Does a ‘sober’ man lie, minimize, justify or relapse? I’ve heard the definition of sober and it seems to only cover physical sex….is there more of a definition? Is sober basically a ‘dry’ addict?

    • According to Sexaholics Anonymous, “Sexual sobriety means no form of sex with self or any other person other than one’s spouse. It also means progressive victory over lust.” It sounds like “victory over lust” is what you’re looking for. This covers things OTHER than just “acting out.” It covers anything that causes your the addict to feel lust. So I would say, no, a sober person should NOT be behaving in that way,