LDS View | The Mormon Working Man’s Definition of Porn Addiction

Instead of dodging the “addict” label, Mormons need to embrace it so they can recover from their “pornography problem.”

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Let’s cut through the confusing rhetoric and define addiction in a way that everyone can understand.

I‘ve been involved lately in an email exchange between a number of Latter-day Saints who are trying to understand what’s going on in the heads of other church members when they talk about “addiction.” When one woman in our group recently started an online support forum for the wives of LDS porn addicts, she met some significant resistance from several women who bristled at the notion that their husbands might be addicts. Yes, the husbands had a serious and recurring porn problem, these women admitted, but that didn’t necessarily make them addicts! One women noted that her husband only used porn as a “coping mechanism”–he most certainly was not an addict!

Part of our discussion focused on why so many Latter-day Saints resist putting the addict label on what is clearly addict behavior. I suggested that perhaps Latter-day Saints incorrectly associate the term “addict” with illegal behavior. For instance, a drug addict might presumably be someone who consumes illegal drugs or gets prescription drugs by lying or stealing. When considering the term “porn addict” or “sex addict,” I wonder if some Mormons wrongly assume that there must be something illegal going on there. The “porn addict” must be looking at “illegal” porn, or the “sex addict” must be involved in illegal or otherwise abhorrent sexual behavior. If this is how we see addiction, a faithful LDS husband and father who holds a calling in his ward and does his home teaching couldn’t possibly be an addict even though he returns again and again to “regular” porn (binging) despite repeated efforts to stop.

The woman whose husband “just used porn as a coping mechanism” leaned heavily on the opinions of certain counselors and therapists who have warned of the harm that could come from “falsely” labeling someone an addict who in fact was not an addict. I chuckled when I read this. It sounds good, but it’s a red herring if ever there was one.

Think about it. Do we really have a problem in modern American society with witch hunters running around slapping the devastating “sex addict” label indiscriminately on everything that moves? How many “outed” sex addicts do you actually know? Let’s see, there’s Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen and David Duchovny and Michael Douglas and–hey, wait a minute! These men are all celebrities!

What about people in the community around you? What about people you know personally? Um, OK, there’s…give me a second…well, how about…no…um…that one guy…no, not really him, either. It turns out that very few people in our circle of acquaintances have been openly labeled as sex or porn addicts. This pandemic of “falsely accused addicts” is non-existent!

What does exist, however, is the fact that a huge component of addiction is denial. And a huge component of co-addiction is also denial! We don’t have a problem with too many people clamoring to get aboard the addiction bandwagon–or even to put someone else up there. It’s exactly the opposite! Addicts and their spouses (and, it appears, their therapists) are generally in open denial about the addiction and the co-addiction and want to stay a million miles away from the addict label.

is the behavior is harmful and is being used as a coping mechanism, then it's probably an addiction

Coping mechanism + harmful + can’t stop = addiction

Thus, we see lots of people like the woman whose husband only uses porn as a “coping mechanism.” Turns out that people who use cocaine as a coping mechanism are cocaine addicts. People who use alcohol as a coping mechanism are alcohol addicts (alcoholics). People who use gambling as a coping mechanism are gambling addicts. What this means then is that people who use pornography as a coping mechanism are porn addicts, which makes them sex addicts, which also makes them lust addicts. You can call a Shetland pony a thoroughbred racehorse, but it’s still a Shetland pony. Heck, you can call it Ben Franklin and it’ll still be a Shetland pony.

The point that folks seem to be missing is that it doesn’t really matter whether you call someone an addict or not. What matters is whether the behavior is harmful on some level and whether the person has become unable to stop the behavior despite increasingly negative consequences.

I’ve decided that I need to articulate a definition of addiction that cuts through all the malarkey and doublespeak. My definition of addiction is so simple and non-scientific that practically no one can be confused about it. Here it is:

  • I wanted to stop certain undesired behaviors (porn and masturbation), so I stopped.addiction is when you stop again and again and again
  • Then I stopped again. Then I stopped again. Then I stopped again. Then I stopped again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
  • I can’t stay stopped.
  • I am addicted. (Wow, I’d better get some help!)

I told you it was simple. Here’s the thing about being addicted: Once you know you’re addicted and admit you’re addicted, then you can finally get well because there’s a solution to addiction! If, however, you insist that you just look at porn and masturbate as a mere “coping mechanism” and not because you’re addicted, then you’re on your own and in big trouble because there’s no known cure for “coping mechanisms.”

call it what you want, addiction is being unable to stop unwanted behaviorThe best the above-mentioned counselors and therapists can come up with is that “A little porn and masturbation never hurt anyone and is unlikely to cause any permanent mental, emotional or physical damage. Guilt caused by the unreasonable expectations placed on us by the Church, on the other hand, will cause such damage!” Got that? If you masturbate to porn and feel guilty about it, it’s the Church’s fault.

It turns out that a lot of good men (and women) in the Church engage in periodic pornography and masturbation binges–and they don’t feel good about it! They would like to stop and never go back to it. They’ve tried and tried and tried and tried–but can’t stay stopped. They are also dissatisfied with the dismissive attitudes of some therapists. Deep down inside, these folks feel like something is just not quite right with their behavior and they want to stop for good.

Instead of running around like headless chickens decrying “false labeling,” why don’t we just point these people in the direction of the addicts in recovery so they can get some real support and see that real recovery is both possible and absolutely wonderful? Thank God for addicts who are willing to call themselves addicts so they can get well and then help others get well too!

Image 1 credit in public domain as work by employee of US federal government (Jennifer Smits)

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 View | The Mormon Working Man’s Definition of Porn Addiction — 3 Comments

  1. Hi. I’m D. and I am in recovery to a Lust addiction (7+ months of recovery right now). I read the PDF set of essays several months ago, and found a lot of great answers and hope therein. I attend two of the Church’s ARP meetings per week, as well as LifeStar therapy, which some may be familiar with.

    This article hits the head on the nail… if the “70-80% of men 18-35 are addicted” stat is real (and I believe that it is), that means that 68-78% of them (and their spouses if they even know about it yet) are in denial. Denial is the killer and enabler. Shame is what propagates the whole thing. Heal the shame, be open and honest, follow the 12 steps, then the addiction can be healed.

  2. Pingback: Sexual Intimacy with an LDS Porn Addict | Pros Cons | Good Idea or Not

  3. I agree with you. Latter-day Saints don’t want to be labeled as sex addicts because we associate that label with illegal behavior. If someone were to stand up at Church and say that they were a sex addict, a lot of mothers would hide their daughters and assume that rape is imminent. Thus, the problem is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a sex addict. Or a recovering sex addict. Or a sex addict in recovery. The number of addicts is high, but the number of people who want to identify with the label of addict is low. Removing some of the stigma would be helpful, but that won’t happen until the Millenials and Gen Z take over. Those two generations are completely immersed in a sex charged world but at the same time, some of them are starting to reject it.