Can Someone Really Overcome Pornography Addiction?

THE SHORT ANSWER IS A RESOUNDING YES! The longer answer is that you can recover from sex addiction and never act out again—if you do what is necessary to achieve sexual sobriety. Addiction is a disease—a treatable disease. In order to treat it, however, you must, in my opinion, get past the idea that you will be cured if you just pray hard enough. I prayed for thirty-six years to be cured. Finally, I heard a quiet voice in my heart and mind whisper that I needed to quit relying solely on prayer and start doing something so the Lord could then do His part. He did not let me down.

It turns out that addiction is not just a spiritual malady. There are physical and emotional components as well. In much the same way that we need to treat and regulate diabetes, we need to treat and regulate addiction. When I was acting out on my addiction, I was unconsciously trying to self-medicate to dull the pain in my heart and mind that was originally the result of depression and childhood sexual and emotional abuse. As a child, I had learned to disappear into fantasy where all the women were nice to me and happy to see me. As I grew older, the fantasies grew more complex and more sexual, fueled by occasional binges of pornography. Fantasy was my mind’s coping mechanism. I learned it as a child; I perfected it as an adult.

If you cannot stop looking at pornography or engaging in other sexual behavior that you think is wrong, you need to consider the possibility that you are not merely listening to the naughty voice of a little red devil with a pitchfork on your shoulder telling you to do dirty things. There is a distinct possibility that, like me, you have developed a lust and fantasy coping mechanism that “helps” you deal with the unhappy and stressful times in your life.

You also need to understand that there is a difference between sin and addiction, and a difference between repentance and recovery. Addiction is not sin; repentance is not recovery. They are all interconnected, but they are not the same thing. Sex addiction compels you to sin, but it is not the same thing as sin. Likewise, just because you repent of your sins, it does not automatically mean that you have recovered from your sex addiction.

Think about it. You have sincerely repented so many times that you can’t count them anymore. Why then do you keep going back to the pornography and acting out sexually? Is it because your repentance isn’t sincere enough? Do you not cry hard enough? Do you not have enough resolve or conviction or contrition? Maybe it’s something else. Is it possible that the issue is not a lack of repentance from sin, but rather a lack of recovery from addiction?

So what do you do to find recovery? The first thing you have to do is get in contact with someone who has suffered from, but is successfully overcoming, sex addiction. You need to talk to someone who has been to hell and lived to tell about it. You need to talk to someone who can look you in the eye and tell you flat out, “I know what you’ve been through because I have been there myself. I can help you get better. You can watch me and do what I do. You can ask me questions and I will tell you the answers from experience.” In 12 Step programs we call this guy a sponsor. He will save your life. We will help you find one if you e-mail us at Recovery[at] RowboatAndMarbles [dot] org.

In addition, you need to connect with a 12 Step group. You need the fellowship of those who have gone before you and found recovery. Contrary to what the ignorant and self-righteous might believe, these groups are full of people who have humbly and successfully found real sexual sobriety and are sharing their experience, strength and hope with others who want to do the same. They are some of the most extraordinary individuals I have ever met. The meetings are positive, inspiring and hopeful because of those people who are in recovery.

Your addiction wants you to remain alone—solitary, unhappy and cut off from people who can help you. Addiction thrives on loneliness, shame and despair. If you want to deal with your addiction in a way that works, walk into a 12 Step meeting and make some friends. I promise they will greet you with smiles.

Finally, to recover, you need to heal up the wounds that cause the pain you are trying to medicate. A therapist or professional counselor can help you understand what is going on that makes you hurt. The Lord wants you to be whole—spiritually, mentally and physically. I am sure of that.

If I can instill one idea in your head, it is this: You can definitely recover—but you cannot recover on your own! By contrast, you most definitely can stay addicted on your own. As I said, your addiction’s continued survival depends on your remaining isolated. Like me, you’ve proven ten thousand times that going solo is a perfect recipe for failure. Even if you’re the toughest, smartest, most spiritual person you know, rest assured that your addiction is more cunning, baffling and powerful than you are—and it doesn’t care a bit about your strength of spirit. Reach out to those who have gone before you. It will save your life; it will save your soul.

Recovery and sexual sobriety feel fabulous! Please let those in recovery share their experience strength and hope with you.

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.


Can Someone Really Overcome Pornography Addiction? — 5 Comments

  1. I’m curious. I hear and read about “sexual sobriety” but don’t understand: how can one be sexually sober and still be married? Please expand/explain. Thanks!

    • Sexual sobriety does not mean “not having sex.” Sexual sobriety to me and those who attend Sexaholics Anonymous means “no sex with self or any person other than the spouse; and progressive victory over lust.” The White Book of SA does a great job of explaining the sobriety definition, the nature of lust and what is required for recovery from sex addiction. If you don’t have a copy, I urge you to get ahold of one.

      Your question brings up an important point. Men who are sex addicts and married have a huge dilemma to deal with. If they want to find real and lasting recovery, will they do what is necessary to stop feeding lust? For some, this could mean not having sex with a spouse for a time until they can figure out what lust-free intimacy is really all about and how it differs from the lust-driven sex that ruled their sex lives before and made them miserable.

      Interestingly but not surprisingly, many sex addicts and the co-addicts they’re married to go ballistic at the idea that not having sex might actually help them sort things out. For them, sex has passed out of the realm of being a simple act of enjoyment and emotional bonding, and has taken on an aura of desperation–as though one or both of them (or possibly their marriage) will shrivel up and die if they stop having sex.

      It turns out that no one ever died from not having sex. Sex is optional even in marriage. It is not a necessity like food or water or shelter and if I have come to a point where I think I’ll die without it, I know there’s something wrong with me that I need to work on.

      Where sex has been the source of powerlessness, unmanageability, pain, confusion and deceit within a marriage, the couple might do well to step away from it for a while, get sexually sober and then revisit intimacy as sober partners in the marriage.

      If a guy shattered his leg in a car accident and then continued hobbling around in excruciating pain on a bent, swollen, twisted limb, his wife, his kids, his bishop, his friends, his boss, and everyone around him would say, “Get yourself to a surgeon, get your leg repaired and then stay off it so it can heal.”

      In contrast, for some reason (evidence of our collective insanity, perhaps), we seem to think that the broken sex drive inside a married sex and pornography addict should be treated by simply refocusing any and all sexual energy on a spouse–like that’s going to fix the problem of sexual behavior run amok.

      Personally, I think all LDS sex addicts and their spouses should individually or as a couple reflect seriously on this issue. For an addict seeking recovery–as well as a spouse seeking recovery–abstinence can be a wonderful thing. It might actually be the difference between life and death.

      • I am a sex addict. I have been sober for 15 years now. I am still working on overcoming lust, which I suppose will never be fully realized in this life. WM’s question is a great one as we enter recovery. I found that our sexual relationship (my wife and I) changed somewhat the further along in recovery I traveled. Sexual sobriety in our relationship has to do with having more concern for your wife than for yourself. It’s more concerned with love rather than lust.

        Sobriety is wonderful. It allows me to have a peace of conscience that I had not before known.

        Andrew, thank you for your posts and thank you for setting up this website. it has given me the courage to go to PASG so that I can admit my powerlessness and throw off the shackles of denial. hopefully, I can help others as well. They may have helped save me from relapsing.

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