Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship | Being LDS and Overcoming Pornography Addiction

A book that deals with the topic of overcoming sex addiction asserts that if lustful thoughts are permitted “to remain in our heads without dealing with [them] immediately, we begin physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and neurological changes within us.” Note that there are five types of change that lust can bring about inside us. I understand now that for years I was focusing on what I thought were the spiritual issues of my problem and completely ignoring the emotional, mental, physical and neurological components of addiction. I also wasn’t enlisting the help of those most qualified to assist me on the “non-spiritual” end of the spectrum.

There is no question that I should have been looking to my priesthood leaders for help with spiritual issues and to advise me on spiritual matters. Emotional matters can be directly related to the spiritual ones, so they might have helped me there as well. Once we get into mental concerns, however, a priesthood leader is probably outside his expertise unless he has training in that area related to his vocation. A priesthood leader would only treat physical ailments if he were also a physician. Neurological problems are, of course, best left to the specialists. The way I was going, it was like rendering aid to the victim of a shotgun blast by applying focused pressure to just one of the many entry wounds while he bleeds to death out of all the rest.

Over the course of my adult life, I have spoken at different times with perhaps eleven priesthood leaders about my struggles with pornography and sexually acting out. They felt for me and expressed love and concern as I related my shame, suffering and frustration. All of these men recommended treatment of my problem with the balm of repentance and forgiveness through the Atonement. Although I embraced their counsel wholeheartedly, it just didn’t seem to be enough to keep me from going back to my addiction.

But then things changed. I have now been sexually sober for long enough to know with certainty that I can stay sober for the rest of my life. Sexual sobriety has a specific meaning to me: no form of sex with self or any other person other than spouse. Period. It also means progressive victory over lust. This is by far the longest period of complete sobriety that I have enjoyed in many years, perhaps in all my adult life. Along with sobriety comes serenity and happiness. I recently told my wife that for the first time in my life, I am happy without an asterisk next to the word “happy.”

To what do I attribute my sobriety? Interestingly, it did not come through a renewed and somehow greater commitment to abstinence from pornography and acting out sexually. I am no more serious about remaining sober now than I was all those other times when I vowed to myself and the Lord that I would never act out again.

There is also one other thing about which I am dead certain. My heart is no more broken and my spirit is no more contrite now than they were in the past. When I was molested as a six-year-old, my heart was broken and my spirit was contrite. When I talked to my bishop as a teenager about my desire to stop lusting and acting out sexually, my heart was broken and my spirit contrite. When I put my marriage at risk and first disclosed to my wife years ago that I thought I might have a problem with internet pornography that I couldn’t seem to beat on my own, my heart was broken and my spirit contrite. When I went to meet with my bishop the next evening, my heart was broken and my spirit contrite.

 

Each time I met with a priesthood leader about trying to find a solution to my “problem,” my heart was broken and my spirit contrite. Every time I spoke to my wife about my inability to stay away from pornography and then had to watch the pain in her face as she tried to understand, my heart was broken and my spirit contrite. Through the health crises my wife and I have endured where we have both sat in hospital beds hooked up to bags of poisonous chemicals and looked death straight in the eyes—and then did it again and again and again with our youngest child—my heart was broken and my spirit contrite. When I finally disclosed to my wife the extent of my acting out over the past several years and again placed our marriage on the brink of oblivion, I had a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I don’t think my problem was that I lacked a broken heart or a contrite spirit. That pretty much describes my entire life.


Comments

Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship | Being LDS and Overcoming Pornography Addiction — 32 Comments

  1. Andrew,

    Thank you for your book I’ve been sharing it with people since you spoke to a group of us [at a fireside in Utah].

    Your book helped me take the hard step of attending my first ARP meeting and later SA meeting. (I’ve only been to one SA meeting, I didn’t find it to be like you described in your book here in UT)

    I’ve been attending ARP meetings and seeking sobriety for the last 4 years. I was able to have long stretches of sobriety my longest lasting 10 months last year. I’m currently working on 153 days of sobriety, but this time I’ve just finished the arpsupport.org 90 program.

    During the program I was finally able to see the devastation my addiction has caused, and I was able to ask God to take away my lust. Up until the day I offered that prayer I always thought I just needed a little help… I almost have this thing beat… I just need a little more help.

    When I finally prayed and told God “I want to lust, I want to look at pornography, and I want to masturbate, but I hate the devastation these things cause in my life. Wilt thou please take this character weakness away.” God did take it away that day. and everyday since as I pray for him to humbly.

    I’m now sponsoring people in the arpSupport.org program and finding progressive victory over my character weaknesses.

    Thanks for your well written book, I’m glad you had to ability to put into words what I’ve felt.

    • Mike,

      I just wanted to share my experience with SA in Utah briefly.

      I have been to SA meetings in Provo, Pleasant Grove, Lehi, and Sandy. I tried out a lot of meetings because I wanted to meet more guys in real recovery and not just stick with my home group.

      I went to one meeting and I was very off put. It felt like people shuffled in, said stuff, and shuffled out. I really did not intend to ever go back. But it is a very convenient time and location for me so I went back. It was a very good meeting. I felt connected to the other guys and was very glad I went. In the weeks since, that meeting has been one of my favorites.

      One of the meetings I attend has a part of the script- “we recommend you come 4-6 times before you decide if this is for you.” I think that is great for the program, but would suggest 3x minimum on a particular meeting.

      Regardless, I hope things are going well for you.

      • Thanks, Things have been going really well. I’ve been to that same SA meeting twice now. And my second meeting was worse than the first. For me ARP support’s 90 day program and the ARP meetings is working well. I will still plan on visiting the SA meetings in the future. Thanks for your feed back!

      • Post script: a few months later I shuffled into a SA meeting and Michael went out of his way to make my first experience a very good one. Because he stuck it out, and kept going, I am now a regular attendee and beginning recovery in a way I never thought possible.

  2. I am super grateful for all the information on this blog. I am grateful for your courage to share your strength, hope, and wisdom to all of us who struggle with the gripping addiction of lust. I look forward to your posts, it has become a part of my daily meditation and study. Again thank you.
    Will

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