An LDS man talks about how there is so much more to pornography addiction than just pornography. Addiction actually cripples love.
I am a Latter-day Saint and a sex and pornography addict in recovery. I am also a love cripple. This shouldn’t be a surprise. I am a lust addict and lust kills love. As my addiction spiraled out of control, all of the important and most meaningful relationships in my life were suffering. I was filled with anger and resentment. The shame and disgust I felt deep inside myself fueled my need to escape. Lust, obsession, shame and isolation ruled my life. One day at a time, through the blessing of recovery, however, I am healing.
As a meaningful conversation with a brother-in-law ended, he closed with, “I sure love and appreciate you.” He said, “I love you” so freely. I wanted to say, “I love you” in return with the same genuine feeling, but couldn’t! But why couldn’t I? I loved and respected him. I have known him for twenty five-years. Oh, I am a love cripple! The awareness of the difficulty expressing my love for my brother-in-law brought me to my knees. I acknowledged to Heavenly Father my powerlessness over being a love cripple. Surrendering worked in very subtle ways and through the grace of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, I began to heal.
I started to look at the different ways I was experiencing my love crippled nature. I found six areas in my life that, thanks to recovery, are healing.
- The confusion between love and sex. For most of my life, sex and love were one in the same in my mind. I looked to sex (and lust) to fill the hole in my heart that could only be filled by a true and loving connection. I had connected the word love to fantasy, lust and images that resulted in the creation of a false connection. The further down the lonely road of lust I traveled the farther away I was from what I really wanted. Love!
- Part of my crippled nature was a belief that real men don’t talk about love. Instead, they show their love with sex. As a result, it has always made me uncomfortable when another man verbally expressed love for me. It was also part of interacting with women if there was any type of appropriate non-sexual touching, such as a hug. I often found something sexual in it.
- Part of my love crippled nature told me I was bad, shameful, unworthy, disgusting and unlovable. Consequently, since what I really longed for, that real loving connection, would never be available, I became willing to settle for the destructive substitute, lust.
- My crippled nature told me that being loved was about getting what I wanted. But if I didn’t get what I wanted I was hurt, felt unloved and justified in my anger. I just knew I could really love the right person if they were the right person and could give me what I deserved.
- I experienced love as something that was conditional. Prior to recovery I felt loved and gave love based on a series of faulty beliefs. If I wasn’t loved in the right way I would withdraw and become angry and resentful. I could cut myself off emotionally so that the other person might as well be dead. I would look for the apology that was never good enough. Efforts to reconnect most often resulted in more blame. And as a love cripple, I looked to lust for relief. In recovery, I realized that I had falsely come to believe that lust was the safer option because lust never asked me to apologize, never made me look at myself and never said “no.”
- One of the most painful parts of my First Step inventory emerged when I realized that I had been viewing my wife as the “approved” object of my lust. I never knew there was a tender, intimate, simple, natural side of sexuality. I was well acquainted with the lustful side of sex. On a few occasions I had heard about sex being an expression of love without lust. But I couldn’t see the difference. Recovery has helped me learn a lot about real love and the many ways it can be expressed.
I had partially backed the car out of the garage. I stopped and waited for my wife to join me and my twelve-year-old son in the car. As my wife approached the car, a feeling of love for her came over me. I felt a real connection to her. I saw her as a beautiful woman who loves me and is committed to me, our marriage and our family. She loves me. And I love her. I smiled in a simple, natural loving way.
As my wife entered the car, my son noticed my smile and commented on it. I was grateful that he could feel and acknowledge my healing and my maturing love for my wife. Prior to recovery I held such contempt, blame and resentment towards my wife. I was certain she was the problem. Lust had clouded my vision and my mind. For a brief moment, I felt sad for the countless times over the years that my clouded vision had projected onto her the wreckage of my insanity. I am very grateful for the opportunity and the desire to relate to her today. We are now learning how to be partners in marriage, life and recovery.
Recovery has helped me recognize that love and sex are very different and now I see that sex can either be an expression of love or an expression of lust. Today, I understand that there is such as things as sexual intimacy that contributes to a loving partnership. For years as a lust addict, I thought the purpose of sex was for me to get the most enjoyment out of it that I could. Through the relationships that I have developed and the service I have offered, I have now experienced love for the people in my world in a new way. I have discovered that I am deserving of love, I can love and be loved.
That destructive cloud of shame has been cleared away from my heart. I now understand love as service and giving rather than expecting, needing, or getting. I am beginning to understand that love is love. Love has no opposite and when I am being loving, love gently touches and uplifts every dimension of my life. I have a long way to go to really understand and live the concept of unconditional love. But today I know that love is not conditional. It just is. And love is a beautiful thing.
Today, I am a grateful recovering sex and pornography addict. Recovery has blessed me, the love cripple, with healing and hope, one day at a time. Recently I was talking with my sponsor and as we ended our conversation I said “I love and appreciate you.” It felt natural, simple and right. I immediately recognized this miraculous moment as the grace of a loving Father in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ doing for me what I cannot do for myself. I remain a grateful recovering lust addict.