There Is No Siren or Flashing Red Light When You Become an Addict

9 Points that Will Surprise Mormon Porn Addicts

Dear Friend:

Your wife asked me to write this letter to you. I don’t know you personally, but I know exactly who you are and how you think. You and I are a lot alike. Practically twins.

I’m a sex addict. I tried for years and years to stop consuming porn and engaging in self-sex. Just like you. You’ve tried to stop a thousand times. You’ve failed a thousand and one times. Secrecy and isolation are important to you, just like they were for me.

When I finally figured out what was wrong with me, I started attending lots of meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous. I got a sponsor and started working the 12 steps. I made weekly visits to a therapist. I became sexually sober for the first time in my life. It has been wonderful. More than anything else, I want to share what I’ve experienced with others, especially with other LDS men and women who are suffering in silence.

Sex addiction and alcoholism are a lot alike

In addition to attending meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous, I frequently attend AA meetings. It turns out that my sex and lust addiction is very similar to alcohol addiction. Their drug is alcohol; my drug is lust. Different drug, but nearly identical experience.

Attention: You are now an addict! (This is not how it works.)

Attention in the vehicle: You are now an addict! (This is not how it works.) [See below for image credit.]

It was at one of these AA meetings where I heard one of the single greatest insights of my life. A recovering alcoholic was talking about his descent into his addiction and how it was destroying his life, his family, his finances and his sanity. He talked about how he knew his drinking was becoming a “little bit of a problem,”

[b]ut I always figured that at some point, a siren would go off and a red light would start flashing to announce that I’d become an alcoholic. Well, I waited and waited and I drank and drank, but no siren ever went off, no red light ever started flashing. In the meantime, I drank my life down the drain. I lost my job and my health and my family. But still, nor siren and no flashing red light.

I nearly died from my drinking. But I never did hear a siren and I never saw a flashing red light. I finally realized this about my alcoholism: There is no siren and there is no flashing red light!

But officer…

Here’s my point: There are a lot of LDS men right now who are drowning in porn, self-sex and other compulsive sexual behavior. Some have gone way beyond porn and are acting out sexually outside their marriages. And nearly every single one of them keeps waiting for that siren and that flashing red light to go off and announce that they’ve become porn addicts. As long as they don’t hear the siren or see that red flashing light, they figure they can still fix this “little problem” on their own, in secrecy and isolation–because they think they’re not yet addicts.

So I’m going to tell you right now a few things that I know about addiction. I hope you’ll listen.

1. As my friend in AA learned, there is no wailing siren or red flashing light to announce that you’ve become an addict. Every addict assumes there is. He assumes that he’ll just know when he crosses that “point of no return” into addiction and that once he does, then he’ll get help. But not yet.

2.  The addict brain is wired to deny addiction. The addict is desperate to figure out how “normal” people consume their drug. When the drug is lust, the addict is constantly trying to figure out what the right amount of sex with spouse is, the right amount of porn, the right amount of masturbation, the right amount of flirting, the right amount of fantasy, the right amount of webcams, the right types of porn. The addict figures that if he can just figure out how “normal” people consume lust, everything will be fine. He’ll be normal and so he won’t be an addict and he won’t need help.

3. Addiction is not a function of whether you can consume your drug like “normal” people. Addiction is rather a function of your inability to stop the behavior despite adverse consequences to yourself and others, including spouses. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing. What matters is whether you can’t stop even though your behavior is destroying your spirituality, your peace of mind and your marriage.

4. This is very important, maybe the most important thing you will ever hear in your life: No addict has ever overcome addiction on his own. Did you hear that? I’ll say it again: No addict has ever overcome addiction on his own. Not a single one. Want to know why? Addiction is a disease of secrecy and isolation. Those are required ingredients of the disease. Addiction is desperate to go solo. But see, trying to overcome addiction on your own is like a diabetic trying to treat his diabetes with lots and lots of candy bars. Secrecy and isolation are gasoline and your soul is on fire. BOOM! You will never overcome addiction on your own. No one ever has. No. One. Ever. Has.

5. Possibly the second most important thing you’ll hear in your life: The single greatest predictor of an addict’s ability to overcome his addiction is his willingness to associate with other addicts who are further along in recovery. See how that’s the opposite of secrecy and isolation? If secrecy and isolation are gasoline, other recovering addicts are like a fire extinguisher. They understand the drug far better than you do. They also understand the real solution. They have experienced the solution. Lots of LDS sex addicts have overcome sex and porn addiction through Sexaholics Anonymous. I understand that some LDS sex addicts have also had success through the LDS Family Services’ Addiction Recovery Program if the folks running the program locally get serious about understanding addiction and recovery, educate themselves and stop treating addicts like they just don’t understand the gospel and the atonement well enough.

6. Prayer and scripture study ain’t gonna do it! If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that prayer and scripture study are so appealing to you because you think they’ll allow you to maintain your secrecy and isolation. Kind of weird, huh? Who knew that a Mormon could take such wonderfully spiritual conduits as prayer and scripture study and turn them into dishonest activities?

7. The atonement of Jesus Christ is not a shortcut for spiritual giants who just have a “little problem.” Remember what I said about secrecy and isolation? The atonement becomes very appealing to Mormon addicts when they convince themselves that they can just keep this “little problem” between “me and Jesus.” No one else has to know. Secrecy and isolation. I know it’s in vogue in the Mormon Church right now to talk about the infinite nature of the atonement. Whatever the infinite atonement is, I don’t think it is whatever we decide it to be. Perhaps I swim against the current by asserting that the atonement does not work to allow dishonest people to remain dishonest within their secrets and isolation.

8. Porn consumption and other lust-driven behaviors (including masturbation) destroy your ability to feel empathy for others. You know how candy rots your teeth? Well, lust rots your soul. This isn’t just a sex problem. Everyone assumes that porn is just about sex. Porn consumption makes it so you don’t care about others. You can’t avoid it. It’s a natural consequence of porn (lust) consumption. Want to know what a sex addict’s typical response is when confronted with the loss of empathy caused by his drug consumption? “I don’t care.”

9. Recovery from addiction is one of the greatest experiences you’ll have in your life. Full and complete recovery is possible for those who become willing to do whatever it takes. I love saying this: You can become the man you always wanted to be, the man your wife wishes you were, and the man your kids think you are.

Please get help.

[Credit for police car image: Scott Davidson and Elijah Bosley by way of Wikimedia Commons.]


There Is No Siren or Flashing Red Light When You Become an Addict — 3 Comments

  1. Again, Andrew – this site is a great thought center for those of us struggling with this lust addiction. There are SO MANY false perceptions that we addicts believe are true – he/she hurt me, they just don’t care about me, why doesn’t he treat ME like that?, it doesn’t matter, I can do it, at least I haven’t done THAT… and on and on. We do look for a cop in the mag store, online, wherever to see if we’re getting pulled over. We don’t see one? So we ‘slow down’, but then speed right back up. This is a very relevant analogy.
    I would add Point 10. – Don’t think your eccleseastical leader has all the answers and inspiration to ‘treat or heal’ you. I know that may sound negative for some, but personally, I heard “You’ve got to stop!” and “I’m putting you on probation for 30 days, no sacrament.” and “I want you to read your scriptures daily, ok?” over and over again. Stopping was not an issue-I stopped every day, every week, whatever. It was the re-starting that was killing me. I also found bishops to be rather enabling to my addiction, asking if I had gone this far (‘uh no…I hadn’t thought of that…’) or have you been to this type of establishment (uh no, but evidently someone ELSE has…so…) you get the drift. And as much as the PARG program is promoted as being ‘the Lord’s program’ or LDS social services being ‘an inspired, worthy counselor’ I must say other professionals, groups, retreats MUST be included in recovery plans. There must be a combination of spiritual, physical, emotional and science-driven views of the individual in order for us to see where we are, how we got here, where should we go, and how will we get there.
    And yes, there is No. One. Who. Recovers. Alone.
    God bless us all!

  2. This site is truly amazing, I have suffered for many years with my addiction, feeling shame and disgust, alternating between it does not matter anymore to a desperate frenzy to stop. Recently I was able to just get it off my chest of how I feel with my wife. All the voices in my head trying to justify, shame, condemn, and a million other thoughts, even those bordering on suicide. No one except an addict knows what the struggle is, and no one but an addict can fathom the internal struggle that we have when we WANT to be close to God but can’t in our current state. Thank you for your posts and good work. I look forward to more.

  3. Thanks for writing this article. I too have found AA to be a great resource. Part of my job is doing testing for the military. I was at a test at a military base on the Florida coast, just as summer was starting. There was a gentlemen’s establishment outside the gate. I had previously acted out in the hotel on a planning meeting for the trip, and was scared what I would do being down there for a month. There were no PASG meetings for miles around. Also, my two co-workers were attractive young ladies.

    I found my deliverance from this tough situation in a local AA club. Went to a meeting just about every night (with the exception of a couple where we tested late into the night). It was a wonderful thing for my sobriety. I learned so much about making the 12 steps effective in my life, and learned to use recovery CDs in the car and on my portable music player. I did not look at porn, and I did not masturbate on the trip. For a relapser like me, that really is a miracle through the grace of God.

    Now when I am on travel I always try to go to a meeting. I first look for PASG meetings, then SA meetings, SAA meetings, and then open AA meetings. I also make use of the SA telephone meetings. When I’ve gone to a meeting on travel, I haven’t acted out.

    Hope this helps someone else.