LDS View | The Silent Seventy Percent of Men with a “Little Porn Problem”

We want to believe that if we do all those things that devout Latter-day Saints do, we can’t possibly be addicted. It must be something else besides addiction: just a “little problem.” And yet, why does anyone die of cancer in this Church of ours? If they do all the things that devout Latter-day Saints do, why doesn’t that take care of the cancer? Why does anyone in our Church live an entire lifetime with diabetes? If they do all the things that devout Latter-day Saints do, why doesn’t that take care of the diabetes?

The reality is that some devout Mormons die of cancer, some devout Mormons have to live with diabetes—and some devout Mormons have the disease of addiction to sex and pornography. (Please remember King Benjamin’s admonition in Mosiah 4:16-22.) We can be addicted to porn and still want to do our home teaching and hold Family Home Evening and say family prayers morning and night and attend the temple(!) and give fabulously insightful talks in sacrament meeting. If we keep returning to our “little problem” it is because our “little problem” is actually an addiction. Left untreated, addiction will steamroll a man’s repeated efforts to fortify himself spiritually and overcome his damning behavior. It will overpower him and he will slip up again and again just as he always has—unless he gets help from other people who know how to deal with addiction. There is always hope!

As we’ve discussed, the “12 percent” may actually consist of about 70 percent of the men under age 35 in the Church. Somehow, they need to come to understand that they may be addicted to sex and pornography; that they can’t get over it on their own (as evidenced by the fact that they haven’t been able to get over it on their own); that if left untreated, the disease of addiction is progressive and degenerative; and that the disease may eventually progress to a point that it kills them. Before it kills them, however, it will destroy their family, their marriage, their integrity, their faith, their finances, their health and their sanity.

In a way, the disease of sex and pornography addiction has already impaired the sanity of so many of us in the Church. We are viewing the crisis as an insane person would view it. We are responding to it as an insane person would respond to it. We are talking about it as an insane person would talk about it. Over the course of the time I have been in recovery, I have been able to talk with a number of LDS men who are also struggling with or recovering from the “pornography problem” and are in various stages of recovery or non-recovery. Some of those conversations have brought our collective insanity front and center for me.

Several of these LDS guys have been relatively new to the experience and process of 12 Step programs. They were new to the idea of powerlessness over their addiction. The First Step in all the 12 Step programs is that we “admitted that we were powerless over [our addiction], that our lives had become unmanageable.” One of the ways that those in long-term recovery help the new guys understand powerlessness is by having them write out on paper a history of their sexual behavior including the pornography and masturbation binges. We then have them write out all of the ways that their behavior has affected their marriage, their family, their service in the Church, their relationships with others, their finances, their education, their employment, and their relationship with God. We have them write out everything they’ve ever done to try to put a stop to the behavior. We have them write out why these efforts to stop have failed.

We have them write this stuff out on paper so that they don’t forget anything and so they have a tangible record of their insanity. Then, when they’ve finished, we have them read out loud to us what they’ve written. More often than not, it is a long list. More often than not, it contains more than just pornography and masturbation. When I read my First Step to my sponsor, I sobbed. Until I had to listen to myself make this oral accounting, I had had no idea that my “little problem” had exacted such an enormous toll on me and those around me to the degree it had. Up to that point, my insane brain had compartmentalized and minimized just about everything associated with my addiction.

As I’ve had that unique experience of listening to other men share their First Step, I always finish with the same series of questions that my sponsor asked me. Many of these men answer with a new humility, filled with a new understanding of their powerlessness, their insanity and the necessity of their absolute reliance on Heavenly Father to do for them what they’ve been unable to do for themselves. Others, however, have a different reaction that, I think, epitomizes the problem we may have in the Church right now. When I say “problem,” I really mean “insanity.” We are doing some things that make no sense!


Comments

LDS View | The Silent Seventy Percent of Men with a “Little Porn Problem” — 42 Comments

  1. I am among the silent 70 percent. On the surface I am a model priesthood holder and my family appears to be perfect and happy. I served a full time mission and diligently fulfilled many leadership callings, including a stint in the bishopric. I’m an attractive man with an athletic build yet I saved myself for my wife (as she also did for me). We got married in the temple and currently have four kids. I have never drank, smoked, or done any drugs. I have a high paying job, a big house, and no debt. I pay a full tithe and even donate an extra 2% of my gross pay as a fast offering. I don’t watch rated R movies and I avoid watching crude sitcoms. This is what a hopeless sex addict looks like on the surface.

    Underneath I have wrestled with impure thoughts and often act out with masturbation and pornography. I have felt like a hypocrite and have suffered from a very low self-esteem because of it. For years I knew I needed help. I have confessed to a priesthood leader many times with no lasting sobriety. Each time I was frustrated and devastated when it didn’t work, but this was the only way I knew of getting help. I heard of the 12 step program a few years ago and assumed that the solution was reserved for those truly perverse folks that committed adultery or molested kids. I didn’t have a problem with sex. After all, the only person I had ever had sex with was my wife.

    I had no idea that this program was for me. I had no idea that this was the solution I had prayed so fervently for. After two decades of acting out with pornography and masturbation I finally gave up trying to stop. I finally accepted that I was destined to act out whenever I needed it the rest of my life. I operated under that premise for an entire year indulging when I thought I needed it. I still tried to minimize it and not let it affect my life. I figured I could live a dual life, shielding everyone else from my bad behavior by keeping it secret. That year was the worst of my life and everything became so bitter that I could not enjoy anything. My wife didn’t know what was wrong but she hated what I had become and asked me to go live with my mother until I figured things out. My marriage was on the rocks… MY marriage!? How did this happen? Why did I feel so disconnected from my wife and kids? I just wanted them to leave me alone all the time. I blamed work. I blamed my wife. I blamed the kids. I kept waiting to get better. I kept getting worse. I knew my acting out was part of the problem, but I didn’t realize that my addiction was a cancer and it had metastasized. I was dying spiritually and even had fantasies about putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger to end the pain.

    While I was busy self-destructing, men all around me were secretly finding sobriety by working a 12 step program. I could have lost my wife, kids, and everything, while the solution was right there under my nose. All men that indulge in lust in anyway shape or form needs to understand that the 12 step program is for them! If you are doing something that you hate, but are unable to stop, you are addicted. It doesn’t matter how severe your acting out is, you are an addict.

    Two weeks ago I decided I had hit rock bottom. I knew I was going to lose everything if I continued. I decided to do whatever it took to change. My pride didn’t matter anymore. I could care less about my reputation. I just wanted the pain to stop. I was losing control of my life and I knew I needed help. I decided I’d tell my wife, bishop, and finally join the “perverts” in their 12 step program. I did all those things last week.

    I went to my first PASG meeting on Sunday. I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable and just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I saw others that looked ashamed and embarrassed. BUT, I also noticed that the majority looked comfortable there. Some were even enthusiastic about it. One guy even shared that he looks forward to these meetings every week. I was surprised by that. I left the meeting not knowing what to think. One thing I did know, is that I felt the spirit there during the sharing portion of the meeting. And by the way, I found the men were not perverts, but children of God earnestly and humbly exercising faith in God.

    Afterward I stumbled upon ‘rowboatandmarbles.org’ after googling something I heard in the meeting that I had never heard before – “Lust addiction”. I read everything on this website, including the comments. I now know what a lust addiction is, and I know I have it.

    The book “Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship” has been the second most helpful book I have ever read in my life. The first, being the Book of Mormon. I do not say that lightly. THANK YOU!

    I now know that those meetings are for me. I have a renewed determination to return and work through the steps. I’m excited and am filled with more hope than I’ve felt in a very long time. I know that this time I have the solution. If PASG isn’t effective, I’ll hit up SA. I’m also exploring professional counseling. I know now that this is the only way. I know I cannot fight this fight by myself. Armed with the knowledge that my problem is not spiritual weakness, but an addiction that I have no hope of fighting on my own has been liberating. I feel like I’ve been running up a down escalator my entire life and someone has just told me that there is an off switch. I recognize that the switch is not easy to flip (and keep flipped), but I am filled with relief that the switch exists.

    The gospel of sobriety must be shared! I optimistically believe that many members of the church will someday associate recovering addicts with strength, not weakness. The tide of understanding is changing and this further light and knowledge is necessary for us to truly conquer this great and pervasive juggernaut of evil that is enslaving our brothers and sisters. I believe as the shame and embarrassment associated with sex addiction is effectively dispelled that we will actually see addicts classified in groups 1 & 2 seek help and achieve sobriety. I also foresee addicts one day actually feeling safe sharing outside the protection of anonymity.

    • JC, I just read your comment and if I were to have been the first one to post something it would have been almost the same Identical things I could have written. It has brought me hope that there are others out there that have the same identical struggles that I have been having and I am realizing there is a chance for me to get help and change who I am. My wife is aware of my “little problem” but I have not done anything solid to seek help as of yet. I am terrified of the “what if I can’t get it under control”. It looks like it has been almost 2 year since you posted and maybe you won’t even see this and have an opportunity to reply but I am curious how things are going for you. Have you been able to overcome the addiction? If so what what program do you suggest. I have seen there are the local meetings that are usually at the church house once a week or I have looked at the LifeStar option and wondering which would be a better route to go.

      • C, I was notified of your comment via email. I’m so glad my comment could give you some hope. When I wrote that comment 2 years ago I had very little hope myself that I’d truly be free from my addiction. BUT…

        I am happy to report that I have not acted out in my addiction since I wrote that comment. Through God’s help I have gained control of my brain and no longer feel compelled to consume pornography, masturbate or lust after women. I had serious doubts that those things were possible, but over the last two years I’ve seen miracles in my life and the lives of many others.

        I attended PASG meetings very frequently for my first year and I did find those meetings useful for reducing my shame and gaining strength. I still occasionally go. Going to those meetings has made me realize that there are many good men also struggling with the same thing. The spirit and love I have felt at those meetings teaches me that God cares about each of us, and sees potential in us despite our weakness.

        From PASG I learned I needed a sponsor to help me work the steps. Shortly after I posted that comment, in 2014, I contacted ARPSupport.org and asked for a sponsor. Their program is free, and it is awesome. BUT, it is really hard – Trust me when I say that nothing easy is going to work. It has to be hard. Their program entails a 90 day commitment to work through the entire 12 steps with a sponsor (which they provide). Once you’re through with the program, you get to become a sponsor for other addicts. Some of the sweetest experiences I’ve had in my life have come through sponsoring others.

        They also have support for women. My wife worked through the 12 steps herself (even though she is not an addict of anything in the traditional sense) and now she sponsors other women (that are usually wives of addicts). She loves it.

        My marriage was pretty awful two years ago and since then it has grown into something awesome. As my wife and I have turned to God and have drawn closer to Him, we have drawn closer to each other. As we have done His work helping others, we have fallen in love with each other again.

        I’ll also add that my testimony has grown leaps and bounds. Two years ago my testimony of God had been reduced to almost nothing. I was basically agnostic. Since then things have gradually changed – I can tell you that nothing in my life has offered a stronger witness that God exists than helping others that are struggling. I have not seen God with my eyes, or heard Him with my ears, but I have felt Him there right by my side in a very real sense as I do His work.

        Email me (joe@mancaucus.com), I’d love to help answer any questions. That invitation is extended to anyone else reading this.

  2. There is another problem that you have not addressed, and it concerns the children of addicts. I am the wife of a recovering addict and we both have seen counselors to help us through. I asked my counselor how much we should tell our children (mostly adults, one in high school), and his response was that they should not be told. A study was done with adult children of high-profile sex addicts, and, as I understand it, without exception they said they wished they had not known anything about their father’s problem. My counselor told me that it is not the job of children to worry about their parents’ problems. So I’m left wondering how to reconcile this idea with your call to openness and sharing. I do believe that something must be done, but I’m not willing to hurt my children to aid in accomplishing that. It’s an impossible situation.

    • I think I probably agree with your counselor to a point. When I talk about being open, honest and transparent, however, I don’t mean being open, honest and transparent with the whole world–just a few carefully selected individuals who understand both addiction and recovery and can help an addict find and stay in recovery.

      The thing I wonder about with regard to kids is whether they should be kept completely in the dark about the addiction at all costs. Yes, it’s not their job to worry about their parents’ problems, but after confusedly witnessing the toll addiction takes on the whole family, isn’t there something that kids can be told to help them understand that there really is something wrong in the family and they’re not crazy for thinking so?

      I grew up in a family with secrets. To this day, my mother, now in her seventies and divorced from my father, refuses to acknowledge that we were anything other than a completely normal LDS family. My father is the same way. Their adult children now barely speak to them or each other. I have to wonder if things could have been different in my family if the addiction and mental illness had been addressed 30 or 40 years ago and the kids had been told that while there were some problems in the family, family members were now working on the solutions. I can only wonder.

  3. Andrew, your work is a life saver for me and my family. Thank you so much. I’ve been fighting my “little problem” for so long. I willingly admitted it was an addiction about a year after my mission, but mistakenly believed it was an addiction to pornography and if I just stopped that I would be good to go. Problem was, I couldn’t stop because porn and masturbation was not my addiction, that was my vehicle for the real source of addiction….my habit of managing negative emotions though fantasy and lust. So I have spent the last 8 years since achknowledging I had an addiction taking medicine for the symptoms but not addressing the real source of the problem. Over these 8 years I have slowly come to understand what you write to us in “rowboats and marbles” but no where is it articulated so well.

    And to “frog” your view could not be further from reality. I am the guy you speak of who viewed porn on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Anyone who consistently does has compulsive and destructive habits you speak of. Porn and compulsive destructive habits come together. I tried for many years to separate the two and it’s not possiple because the later is the cause of the former. Whoever thinks these are not associated are in complete denial. I was. You should read the ABC’s essay on this website. The addiction is not porn, the addiction is lust. Porn is the drug of choice.

  4. I’ve been dating a new member guy for 1 month and he had told me that he watched porn and had being struggling to leave it. He found it too hard for sure to leave it but finally he did it before start dating me. He says he has stopped doing that cuz he knows is not right and he didnt feel good about it, so he looked for help but failed until now he finally did it. He is a good guy but every time i see articles about this issue I get worried, I appreciate the fact that he told me without me even thinking about him involved with this issue, specially when Im aware that many members live with that, single or even married and never confess it. How can I always trust him knowing he did that in the past. I know again many members do it and never tell it to their closer ones, but still Im worried that this may come again, or as many members friends told me, their husbands lied to them, how can we know if to been involved in that may affect your relation later? Is hard to tell, I know. Repentance is true, but Is clear that we would want always someone who had never been involved with this, it seems almost impossible even inside church.

    • People who are caught on the trap of addiction need to reach out for help. Addicts will fool themselves into thinking that they are not going to do the addictive behavior again. However, the brain has changed and it will go back. From what I have read and from what I have witnessed with other addicts is the path to recovery includes therapy with someone who specializes in treating this addiction and a 12 step group. The research shows it can take between 3-5 years of constant work to change the brain. It can be done. If your friend is willing to do the work and face this addiction, I would say you could have a potentially great relationship. But know what you are getting into, find your own support.

  5. I won’t argue with the statistics here, and agree with the author’s points that pornography use severely dampens our power in the priesthood, and that it causes us to objectify women. I’ll add to that, it causes us to objectify almost everyone, because we come to see almost everyone more as a means to the end of meeting our own needs and desires than as a person to love. Yes, I speak from experience here, having struggled against pornography addiction myself for many years.

    It’s unfortunate and misguided that the author frames the issue in such an all-or-nothing, judgmental point of view. Not all porn addicts are in denial about their problem, nor are they all hiding their addiction. Would it be appropriate for such to stand up in EQ, sacrament meeting, or Sunday school and announce their problem? There’s a difference between covering your sins and discretion. Confiding in your priesthood leader, family members, and others who can help you, while not announcing your weakness to the world, is simply discrete.

    For someone to go from daily or weekly porn consumption to “every couple of months” is significant progress, in spite of the author’s condemnatory claim. Making this very change allowed me to experience significant healing from the damage I had done to myself, even though the relapses cause some degree of backsliding. The Lord judges us by both actions and desires/intentions. It’s been about three months since my last lapse (during which I stopped myself and stepped away), and I believe it was about five months before that.

    Again, these lapses do cause harm, but by no means am I starting from scratch every time I mess up. I have been building upon my successes and learning from my failures for years. Remember the example of a child learning to walk, who falls down often at first! Each instance of temptation is an opportunity for success or failure. If you resist a powerful temptation to look at pornography (or even just a temptation to masturbate), and resist until the temptation departs, you have grown in strength. Repeat that success 5 to 10 times, and you have significantly increased that strength. Repeat that success 20, 50, or 100 times, and you have created a habit. Mess up once after that, and the next few times the temptation comes, it will be more difficult to resist, but you have built up your strength of will, and after a few more times of resisting, you are back to where you were before the lapse.

    This idea that any lapse in obedience thrusts us back down to the bottom of the proverbial hill we’re climbing is a lie straight out of Satan’s mouth, intended to frustrate and discourage God’s children who are struggling to overcome habitual sinful behaviors. Don’t believe it!

    • I’m not talking about “lapses in obedience” and I get a little nervous when people start telling me what Satan may or may not be saying to me. I think the point I want to emphasize is that my addict brain will tell itself lies about “the progress I’m making” in order to keep me from getting the real help I need–help that can only come from associating with other addicts further along in recovery. Personally, I cannot overcome addiction by “practicing” or “gaining strength” as you suggest. I used those methods for years and failed miserably, all the while reassuring myself that I was making progress. I have not been able to overcome addiction through strength training. Maybe others have, but not me. Check out my post on why I now pray for humility instead of strength here.

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