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

A personal story of recovery from sex and pornography addiction.

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE with pornography was at age six. Six-year-olds don’t have the strength or capacity to say no to an older person looking to expose them to pornography. I certainly didn’t. This was especially true after I heard the enticing description of the pictures I would find in the magazine hidden out in the cherry orchard. This older person, a teenage boy in the neighborhood where my family had recently moved, understood that the pornography he showed me became a secret we shared. He formed a covert bond with me and then used that bond to coax me to an isolated place so he could molest me. These experiences, coupled with an increasingly compulsive desire to flee into fantasy to escape the difficulty of living with a mentally ill parent, flipped a switch in me at a young age and I became a sex addict.

I think a lot of people have a pretty hazy idea of what a sex addict looks like. We imagine a pudgy, middle-aged guy in a trench coat with greasy hair and twitching, crazy eyes who sneaks around and peeps at women through their bedroom windows because he can’t control his sex urges. The reality, however, is that in much the same way that there is a broad spectrum of alcoholics—from apparently able and functioning members of society at one extreme to the poor inebriate passed out in the gutter in some large city at the other—there is a broad spectrum of sex addicts.

To be sure, some sex addicts do sit in dark, dingy bedrooms with the curtains drawn surfing for porn on the internet for days at a time. But sex addicts are also very often some of the ordinary men, women, and children in the community around us. Some of them are your bosses or employees at work. Some of them are the people sitting with their families in front of you in the benches at church. Some of them are the kids on your child’s baseball team. Although they come from all walks of life, I feel certain that most sex addicts share some common traits: First, they are miserable. Second, they wish that sex wasn’t such an overwhelming part of their lives that devoured everything else. Third, I would also bet that many, if not most, sex addicts don’t know that they are addicts. They think they just have a “little problem.”

Addiction has been, and remains, very misunderstood. A lot of people fear that if we acknowledge that addiction is something beyond a particular person’s control, we somehow give that individual a free pass to do whatever he wants in society without any accountability for the consequences. Although we appear to accept the reality of alcohol addiction, hard drug addiction, gambling addiction, a myriad of food addictions, and even shopping addiction, many of us honestly believe that addicts merely suffer from a deficiency of moral character. Addicts are not as righteous, are not as spiritual, are not as noble, and are not as sincere as the rest of us.

Addicts, we believe, just don’t want to get out of their addiction. If addicts were truly serious and wanted to change, they would just stop doing what they’re doing. Simply put, we think that addicts prefer to be the addicts that they are. They like the bondage of addiction, we assume, better than they like the freedom that the rest of us enjoy. Apparently, they choose addiction. I absolutely disagree.

The greatest misunderstanding about addiction, I believe, has to do with its size and power. I hope no one seriously thinks that an addiction is like a little red devil who sits on your shoulder whispering naughty thoughts in your ear and who may be easily disposed of by a flick of the finger. Perhaps those who have never dealt with addiction might imagine instead a couple of wrestlers in a ring. They are more or less evenly matched in size, weight and skill. Sometimes one wrestler gets the upper hand; sometimes the other one controls the match. The addict is one wrestler and the addiction is the other. The idea here is that the addict just has to learn some moves, build some strength, think positively, listen to his coach, and eventually he will prevail over the addiction. It’s tough work, but that addiction can be whipped. Again, I flatly disagree with this perspective.


Comments

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

  1. Pingback: Pornography Addiction Recovery | LDS View | Overcoming Sex AddictionRowboatAndMarbles.org

  2. I’ve really enjoyed this site. I’ve been learning a lot. I actually thought I had this thing licked so many times. But your analogy about the marbles is dead on. I’m going to my first SAA meeting tomorrow and I’m really excited.

    • X: Thanks for reading and commenting. I wish you all the best. Keep an open mind with Sex Addicts Anonymous and try to find other LDS guys in the program. You might also seriously consider Sexaholics Anonymous. That’s the program I attend. Their definition of sexual sobriety exactly matches the Gospel standard and a lot of LDS men are finding recovery there. Please let me know how things are going.

  3. Thank you so much for this wonderful website… I’m… a sex addict. I will be getting married soon to the most wonderful women in the entire world. But I kept “slipping up” as you would call it. I just… was so angry at myself, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t stop myself sometimes. It hurt so much that I was contemplating suicide at times. I was swearing to myself that I loved her more than anything but I still made mistakes. And I could never keep a secret from her, so I told her and it hurt her as well. Honestly, my addiction was literally killing me and all I had to go on was that “I’m not strong enough, if you were better spiritually you would be able to stop. You must be weak if you can’t stop.” These articles have… they have helped me so much. Thank you, you have literally saved me. I can never thank you enough. Thank you. I wish you all the best.

    • M: I wish you all the best. Please keep working on your recovery. Go to Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. Keep seeing a therapist. Keep in contact with your sponsor. Never let yourself believe in the “marriage cure”! God bless you as you work toward recovery.

  4. Andrew — I want to thank you for your amazing insights on the broken-heart-and-contrite-spirit merry-go-round as well as your analogy on battleship and marbles. So much of these ideas are wrapped up in my own heartbreaking 50-yr-old battle with lust and acting out. In June, I finally humbled myself to act on my counselor’s advice and attend my first PASG meeting. By mid August, I started attending SA at least twice weekly, as well, and can’t tell you how profoundly “new” I’m starting to feel as God begins to restore my sense of self worth and works to build a new man out of me.

    As ironic as it may sound, I sense so much power in admitting my powerlessness over my drug of choice and acknowledging my dependence on God for delivery from this horrible monster of lust. I am now comfortable with admitting that I’ll always be an addict, and if it requires me to keep attending these meetings for the rest of my life, so much the better.

    My wife is starting to sense that there’s something new about me; maybe for the first time in my life, I’m starting to know what happiness is, having purged from inside me all that I’d tried to keep hidden for so long. Thanks so much for an inspiring read on a rainy night.

  5. Thank you for an amazing post. I’ve quit so many times I’ve lost count. My wife has not been able to deal with this – I thought it would destroy my marriage. I finally talked to my current Bishop and did not get the usual “God loves you and so do I – you’ll sort it out” speech. He encouraged therapy which I’ve recently started with a Christian counselor. He will work on the porn part – he doesn’t see a problem with masturbation as it is not mentioned in the Bible, so I’ll take one challenge at a time. At least checking in with him and the Bishop have given me some accountability and strength. I don’t know if my marriage will survive going to SA but I hope I don’t have to choose between being “right with the Lord” and holding on to my marriage. Thank you for giving my hope. I discovered this site purely by accident (I love disguised inspiration). May God bless you for your efforts to help me.

    • Um–the Bishop is wrong about masturbation. Look up Onan, honey. Masturbation is as wrong as anything that separates us from our spouse, our God, and our honorable self.

    • The thing is that Acting out sexually in the form of Masturbation is feeding lust, and will lead to other things as Andrew says in his essays “They are like conjoined twins” So it is harmful. There are many things that are not mentioned in the bible that destroy our lives, but the bible unfortunately doesn’t have all the answers. It has many of the key things we need, but we need continuing revelation. God bless you!

  6. thank you for the the things you have written. they are great. i sent a link to my stake president, and he thanked me and sent your blog to all of his bishops and high council.

  7. President Boyd K. Packer said:
    True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the Gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the Gospel. (General Conference, October 1986)

      • Andrew, I read your articles and found them to be very helpful. Thanks for having the courage to write them. I think what Marx X meant is that understanding that the real problem is lust is like understanding true doctrine. When we understand true doctrine our behavior is changed quicker than if we focus on the behavior. Focusing on behavior/ studying about it will change behavior to a degree as you said, but it will always come back. Understanding true doctrine is comparable to understanding lust. If we understand true doctrine that understanding will help our behavior to change. Just like if we understand that Lust is the root of the problem and focus on lust, Pornography (behavior) will change.
        Its like a tree. We need to cut at the root, not at the branches, because they will just grow back with time. If it is possible to conquer lust in this life completely that would be like cutting down the tree completely, but if we’re not careful, little sprouts will begin to grow out of the stump we created. I agree that addicts use this quote in a way that suits their behavior and addiction, but even if they truly understood it, it wouldn’t necessarily change their behavior, but it would give them a direction to go (Focusing on lust instead of the manifestations of lust). The only one who can change us is christ, but we need to be willing to do ANYTHING to make it happen. Thanks for everything! 🙂

  8. Andrew, Thank you so much for this amazing blog. In all my research on this subject I feel that you most accurately address the real issue of sex addiction as well it’s challenges in the LDS community. My husband and I live in an area that doesn’t have a huge amount of resources that are available to addicts and their spouses. We have found SA and S-Anon meetings that we are beginning to attend. The problem is the lack of sponsors, especially ones that would share our faith. The ARP meetings that we have attended in the past severely lack in attendance and therefore sponsors are non-existent. Also the ARP meetings are general and not specific to the SA problem. Can you tell me where we can access LDS Sponsors so we can continue on the road of being successful in finding recovery. Even if it needs to be people we check in with on the phone. Any help you can provide with this will be hugely appreciated. Thank you for all you do. You are doing the Lords work here.

  9. This analogy of the row boat and the battle ship is very inspirational. I have been attending the ARP meetings for several years and I have not heard about this site until i moved to Colorado. Here we have the ARP meeting specially for SEX addicts. It has been a great change for me. I have been fighting this since I was a boy. Now that I have been sober for 2.5 years I have issues with inadvertently going to sites that have promiscuous stuff on it such as advertisements or news articles or other types of things. what I am trying to say is I can’t stand that this stuff is rampant on the internet even if you are not trying to find it. Just today I was wanting to change the background on my Google Chrome page and as I was scrolling through there were promiscuous pictures of women that I had never seen before in the backgrounds. I would like to know did I do something wrong? I saw one and didn’t pay any attention to it and kept scrolling down then I kept seeing more and more so I totally shut it down. Then I sent an email to google telling them how I felt about what they had on there backgrounds page. I hope they can fix that. any way I am not sure if that is considered going back into my addiction or not. doe any body else have any type of feed back. My marriage is really rocky right now and I don’t know if I should tell my wife. I don’t feel like I acted out but I could be mistaken.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story! This is a fantastic analogy! Our SA group in Utah County (SA4LDS) just started a website sa4lds.com for people to find meetings easier. As webmaster I stumbled upon your website looking for ideas for our site. I will be ‘spotlighting’ some of your articles now and in the future. For any of y’all SAs in Utah County check out our site and come join us in a meeting. The Sunday night group is really strong, and sometimes has 50+ people in attendance.

  11. Do you take comments from wives? My husband has been (according to him) abstinent for over 5 years. But it’s so hard for me! He has been physically abusive, but with “plausible deniability” all of our marriage. He tried to convince me (early in our marriage) that I was the one who wanted to act on his fantasies–but I couldn’t be comfortable with what he wanted.

    Now, he has stopped going to meetings, we’re going to a counsellor who told me that I have PTSD–and the mocking, the anger, and the viciousness just go on and on.

    I want to die. I just want to die. He has ADHD, but he doesn’t take his meds so that he’s on them when he comes home, and I am so scared of him that I scream and scream. Our counselor wants me to take meds, but I’m afraid that medication will make me not notice the threatening behavior.

    • Okay–this is the first Carol, who sent the one about Onan, and bishops not realizing that masturbating is astoundingly wrong. There are 2 of us, 3 if you count Carrie, in my group of friends. We didn’t know how sad Carol was; she married a man we liked, but he is very distant. She didn’t know I had a problem with my own husband. She’s finding out what we all need, and that’s a loving, caring group. We made sure that she went to a 12-step meeting right away, and she’s had the opportunity to see that she needs more help. We share a “friends only” email, and that way, she won’t have to deal with facebook. (her husband and others are there.) She’s going to be okay, and one of these days, she’s going to be FINE. She called my other friend shortly after she posted here, and that friend was so concerned that she called her local RS president. That got a couple of local women to go visit her, they saw that she was “ill”, and lo and behold, one of them had seen her at the meeting. (but didn’t mention it to the other woman)
      The woman who recognized her brought in a dinner, and sat with her all afternoon until the kids got out of school; they’re organizing a play group, and that way, they can get together.

      I love that Relief Society exists. They aren’t perfect, but they work faster, better, and more completely than our old group of college friends. And I saw this here at another friend’s house–and we’re going to take care of Carol.

      Men? They’re the necessary thorn in the foot.

      The Colonel’s Lady, and Judy O’Grady are sisters under the skin….

  12. I need this. So much I need this. I haven’t been able to read anything more, but I keep coming back and coming back to these 6 pages. I see so much of what I have done. I see so much of how I had convinced myself that I just had to live with it, but couldn’t honestly bring myself to confide in others or even my wife. I’d listen to LDS General Conference talks that focused on the problem of pornography and thought, “well yah, that’s a problem;” but never understanding truly what the nature of problem actually was.

    I have a long road ahead of me. I have only just begun to see the pain (and the trauma) that my actions and choices have caused in she to whom I should have been a source of protection. I can’t stand it. I feel like I should be in more pain for myself. But I guess I feel numb. I mean, I am excited that I was finally caught or found out, or whatever/however you want to describe it. That absolutely IS a relief. It means I’m not the only one who knows any more. But I was afraid of how uncomfortable this is.

    Andrew, you’re amazing by sharing all this information and even more so for helping all of us understand just what this is; really, for helping me recognize how blind and deceitful I have been. I hope I get to where you are without destroying everything I hold dear to me.

    I feel like you’ve been able to accurately describe everything I feel and think. I do not mean this as a belittling of the seriousness of this issue and the significance of the help that comes with group sessions, because I have only seen the tip of the ice berg of that, but I am starting to relate a lot more to the beginning of “Wreck-It Ralph,” where I’m just starting and some burly Russian dude in a speedo can relate to everything I’ve said or felt and probably done and more, because he sees the other side of the journey.

  13. It’s such an awful thing. I know so many men who don’t know, or don’t care how they’re devastating their families. So many women who can’t look at themselves (ourselves!!) and see the beauty, just the lines, the stretch marks, the too-small-there, too-big-there, the not-quite-perfect bodies, the not-a-cover-girl faces. And when my lovely, smart, talented friend just had her meltdown, we came together to love her. We started talking, a few of us.

    I learned about a friend of mine, 30 years ago, who attempted suicide, and then killed herself because she couldn’t be “good enough” for her addicted, abusive husband. I never knew why she would want to die–she looked perfect to ME! Another acquaintance was starting a divorce from her deeply addicted husband–and he killed himself. His family blame HER, and can’t accept that his addiction caused the insanity.

    This addiction makes so much misery! The least of it is longing of the young man who doesn’t ever learn to love a real woman, because she’s not a thousand willing fantasies!

    Please keep us posted on your struggles! You’re a real person, and a real survivor, who is on the tide, but not the junk that washes up on the beach. I need to know about successes so that I can feel hope. I need to know about setbacks so that I can know that they don’t mean the absolute end of that hope.

  14. I have been married for almost 17 years. I am recovering form this addiction. I have seen first hand what this addiction does not only to the one who is addicted but also to the people they love. I have been sober 3 years now and looking back I see the opportunities that were lost. My wife has stuck with me through this. For 14 years I was just interested in my needs and wants. My wife is now struggling to Forgive me. she says that she has seen the change in me and that I am a much better person but there is no Love or any type of affection that she is wanting to show to me. I am thankful that she is still willing to stay married. I am hoping that one day she will be able to love me but as she was patient with me so too must I be patient with here. Everything is accomplished in the Lords time. The Lord knows what is best for us and he can heal the wounded and broken heart. He has changed me. I know that I am not done. I still have to do my part because any addiction can come back if you are not diligent in your recovery.

    There is adversity every where. It is how we deal with that adversity that will either bring us down in to Satan grasp or lift us up closer to God. That is the purpose of this life is for us to be tried and tested to see if we will turn to God and Live or turn to Satan and die spiritually.

    Please don’t give up on the people that may have this addiction. One day no matter who you are we will all be accountable to God and it is not up to us to Judge. We are instructed to Love and to forgive all men every trespass. You may never know when a person will turn around and find that destruction they left behind and are willing to try to rebuild.

    Never Give up!

    • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. And we are commanded to forgive all men. BUT–and here’s the biggest caveat–FORGIVENESS IS NOT TRUST. We are not commanded to trust those we are commanded to forgive. (Otherwise, a thief would be able to demand that we give him our house keys, and the man who rapes would have the right to demand that his victim let him sit next to her in any place she might be. That is an eternally abhorrent concept, and one that those who feel entitled to their idea of forgiveness have to abandon!)

      Please understand that to a righteous woman, giving herself to her husband is the most loving–and risky–thing she can do–except for forgiving him when he has taken her love and her gift of self and thrown her away. If you have treated her as a proxy for your filth, or have hurt her in her most vulnerable of places, you are not worthy of her until she decides that you can be trusted not to hurt her again.

      Prying her heart open? That’s like saying that you love the clam, and prying it open may be fun for you–but it kills the clam.

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