In a Relationship, Is It Selfishly Better to Find Out Your Partner is a Porn Addict, or a Recreational User? I say Addict.

Sometimes, I find myself babbling during a podcast and stumble into something that makes a lot of sense I’d never put into words before. It’s kind of the same process as therapy, which is why I urge people to see a therapist, even if they only think they are babbling for 49 minutes. That 50th minute may be where the magic happens. Likewise, if you can get people to invite you onto their podcast, they’ll ask you questions and you’ll be forced to explore the answers.

Anyway, I’ve been reflecting on something I said a while back on a podcast, and have begun discussing it with a few people because it’s nothing I’ve heard before, but it’s something that just seems to make sense to me and I’d be curious if it makes sense to you.

For partners (yes, generally women dealing with a man, so forgive me if I do the non-PC thing and sometimes assume this is the arrangement) of any kind of addict, the partner is not the reason the addict got into their addiction. With addictions like gambling or drugs, this is just generally a given. Wives usually don’t wonder what they did wrong that caused their husband to be a video game addict and husbands don’t wonder what they did wrong to make their wives food addicts. The boyfriend didn’t make his girlfriend and alcoholic and the girlfriend didn’t make her boyfriend a cokehead.

This dynamic is often ignored or overlooked when it comes to porn addiction. The partner of the addict, upon learning of the addiction, will often go through a process called betrayal trauma that can last days, months or years. Essentially, it is the pain and hurt of both knowing that your partner was “living a double life” coupled with the pain that their addiction involved sex/nudity/other people, which crosses a certain line of harmful intimacy/cheating/betrayal in the mind of the non-addict. Often, it destroys relationships.

Now, here’s the thing. Regardless of the betrayal trauma occurring, the porn addict is sick. We know that they have a brain disease that is likely a system of a much bigger issue, including unresolved childhood trauma or another mental health issue. I don’t want to be seen minimizing the betrayal trauma, but it is not my focus right this second.

I can tell you that based on my story and based on the story of many sex/porn addicts that I know, have interviewed, have met, etc., the addiction is never about lust. Never. In my case, my addiction allowed me to subconsciously create a false sense of control. I didn’t realize this while in my addiction, but it’s crystal clear now after six-plus years of recovery. I wasn’t an addict for the naked girls or taboo feeling of getting away with something. It was serving a need I had since early childhood, when I had my sense of safety regarding control taken away.

I can also tell you I didn’t drink because it tasted good or I liked the social lubricant. I’d say 95% of my drinking was done alone, isolated, simply to numb my brain to the point I wasn’t thinking beyond the very surface.

Cocaine addicts don’t snort because it’s fun to watch white powder disappear. Video game addicts don’t sit in front of the TV or computer for 15 hours because they appreciate fine digital graphics. Food addicts don’t like cake that much more than you and I. All addicts have a brain disease happening. It’s not about the substance or behavior. It’s about the subconscious pleasure, safety or sense of wellbeing the addictive behavior or substance provides, and it becomes the priority in life.

I think it’s also important to mention that almost all addicts suffer a decreased sex drive and need for intimacy, except those who are abusing stimulants like cocaine, or those who have just experienced a chemical-induced high. For the most part though, especially in males, there’s enough science to show that there is usually a slowing or shutting down of the libido. Ask a heroin addict how important sex and/or intimacy is to them.

So back to porn addiction. Why do female partners suffer from such betrayal trauma? I believe it has nothing to do with the addiction itself. I think the fact that there may be an addiction is often forgotten and lost in the betrayed person’s mind. They focus on the perceived intimacy/fantasy with another person that comes with their partner’s use of pornography. That use usually ends with an orgasm – just as the act of intercourse does. If intercourse is supposed to be “sacred” and reserved for only the partner, it’s understandable why they are hurt.

In researching my second book, learning these women’s stories and reading many of them on online forums where they post and receive advice, it stuck out to me that while many of these women clearly had partners who had an addiction, others had partners who seemed to barely have an unhealthy relationship with pornography, and even more simply caught their partner looking and had no real evidence to reach a conclusion that he was an addict.

I’ve come to wonder how often this kind of betrayal trauma happens with the female partners of men who are not porn addicts, because I think these are the female partners who really have to worry.


We all know the person who can have the occasional beer or two, or the person who can play video games for an hour and then put it away for several days. I visit a casino two or three times a year with my wife, never lose more than $40 and always walk away if I’m lucky enough to win $100. I don’t bet on sports or play the lottery, so I’m not sure if I can even be called a recreational gambler, but let’s just say I am for the sake of this article.

Let’s say for whatever reason, my wife was 100% anti-casino and anti-gambling. Maybe her father gambled away her college fund or her mother lost the family house…whatever. If she were to ask me never to gamble again, I would not have a hard time walking away from it. I find it fun watching the reels of the slot machine spin, but it’s a moment I wouldn’t miss if it disappeared from my life.

Let’s say some friends ask me to meet them for steaks and blackjack this weekend at the casino. I have three choices as I see it: I can decide not to go because it follows my wife’s wishes, I can tell her that I got the offer and gauge her response deciding accordingly, or I can decide not to tell her and just go.

If I go without telling her, it doesn’t make me a gambling addict. I may want to see my friends, do something without her, have a steak…whatever. I continue to stay within my “lose $40/win $100” gambling rule I’ve set for myself. Let’s say that my friends make a plan to do this once a month. It may be my only chance to see some of them, I appreciate the camaraderie, whatever, but I decide to make it a regular thing. This also does not make me a gambling addict.

It makes me a serial liar. It makes me someone who puts my own wants above some very specific boundaries set by my partner. It reveals a self-centeredness that shows I’m probably not a very good partner. But it doesn’t make me a gambling addict.


Now let’s consider the guy who looks at pornography but is not an addict. I absolutely believe that most people who use pornography, both men and women, are looking for little more than visual stimulation to help them achieve an orgasm.

I believe that these people (who are the vast majority of society in the under-50 group of men and under 35 group of women) learned along the way that they can satisfy their sexual needs with a self-induced orgasm. Masturbation is a selfish thing, but nobody understands how to work your equipment better than you do.

Intimate lovemaking is a wonderful thing, but sometimes in the eyes of many, just having sex with somebody they barely know can be the release they need, even if there is no love or true intimacy involved. Again, not moralizing or judging, just recognizing a fact. And sometimes, despite the option for intimate lovemaking exists with a partner, a person simply wants to experience the faster release of self-orgasm because they are not in the mood/too tired/whatever to invest what is necessary for mutually beneficial lovemaking.

I do not believe that the non-porn addict becomes an addict when they opt for occasionally masturbating over having sex with their partner.

But, like with my gambling example, what if the female partner views pornography as a reprehensible thing? What if she views her partner’s masturbation as a slap in the face and rejection? She has every right to set those boundaries, but does his breaking them without her knowledge automatically mean that he’s an addict? Of course not. Does lying about it automatically make him an addict? Not at all.

Yes, addicts lie. So do husbands and boyfriends who are caught doing something they shouldn’t. Addiction and lying are horrible character traits, but they are not mutually exclusive. One involves a disease and the other is just about covering one’s tracks. Five-year-old kids lie. Politicians lie. Salespeople lie. That doesn’t make them addicts.


Here’s the most important distinction between the addict and the liar who uses pornography: One is mentally and physically programmed beyond their control, the other just likes to get off. Addiction is certainly nothing I’d wish on anybody or their partner having gone through it with porn and alcohol, but I wasn’t using just to get off. In truth, when my porn addiction was at its worst, there was no “grand finale” orgasm. I wasn’t using it for sexual gratification – I don’t think I ever was. Yes, frequency of intercourse with my wife slowed down, but I got a very different need met when I was with her vs. when I was utilizing pornography throughout the first 11 years of our marriage before my addiction came to light.

I believe the recreational user is getting the exact same need met when they look at porn vs. when they have actual intercourse. Yes, there may be a fluctuation in the intimacy level, but I believe the recreational user choosing to use porn is simply looking for the orgasm and uses pornography as a visual aid.

The next question becomes is it better to be with a partner who has a disease of the brain that has nothing to do with you, or do you want to be with someone who has no pre-existing condition and is consciously choosing porn over you?

I’m not going to debate that human emotion is a tricky subject and that betrayal trauma shouldn’t register regardless of your answer to that question, but if I was in the situation of so many women who discover that their partner is looking at porn, I’d take some selfish comfort in knowing it was a disease and not a rejection of me.

Am I crazy here? Am I correct? Assuming I am anti-pornography, I would be more concerned about my role in my partner’s viewing of pornography if they were not an addict vs. if they are. Being an addict is an extenuating circumstance. Being a liar just means your partner is an asshole.

Here’s Your Chance to Redeem Yourself…

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 12.54.52 PMYou really wanted to buy my new book and support me when it came out in softcover in December, but either the $19.99 (plus tax and shipping) cost or the fact you’d have a book laying around the house that said “Porn Addict” on the cover was too much for you. That’s OK, I understand. And now, both of those excus….err….reasons have been taken care of as I am proud to announce He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions is available in Kindle!

Now, with a low price of $9.99 and no shipping costs, you can show you support, learn a few things, and prove that reading isn’t dead. With Amazon’s gifting and lending program, if you know somebody who should have the book but isn’t going to pick it up for whatever reason,  you can share with them in a much more subtle way than giving them an actual book.

Hope you’ll pick up, or download, your copy today!

Link to the Kindle:  https://amzn.to/2NyIWAT

For those who purchase the Kindle (and those who don’t, but whatever) my first book is available on Kindle for $3.99 for a short time for only HERE

Q&A Time: What’s The First Advice You Can Give an Addict or Partner?

Note: I answered this question on Reddit today and it seemed like the perfect thing for a short Q&A on this site. I also liked the way she referenced my book. Big news coming about it very soon!

QUESTION: Given your experience, what is the likelihood of someone kicking this habit and if I decide to stay, what advice might you have to follow initially? I will get your book if I do decide to stay for the full advice.

ANSWER: I’ve never seen any actual statistics about recovery, but I have seen many men (and several women) successfully kick this habit. They all had the following in common:

  1. Every addict admitted they had a problem, decided they wanted to fix it and committed themselves to it.

  2. Every addict had a supportive partner. I truly believe partners need to learn the ins and outs of addiction to understand what the disease is on a scientific level. Once you understand, it’s easier to accept the fact it really has nothing to do with you, never did and never will.

  3. Every addict sought professional help. Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. With porn addiction, 90% to 94% of addicts have some kind of trauma in their background, wit 81% reporting sexual abuse as a child. Until the addict can figure out why they developed their addiction, it’s not deal with the root cause. That’s why I’m not a fan of the NoFap culture. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.

  4. Every addict had some sort of fellowship. Be it a 12-step group (whether they followed diligently or not), group therapy, and online forum or another means, addicts need to talk to other addicts who are in recovery.

I hope this helps a little bit.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Meet A Porn Addict on the Verge of Getting Help

Note from Josh: I can’t pretend this isn’t long. It’s very long, but it’s very powerful. In the pornography addiction advising service I offer, I always ask for an introduction from the prospective client to give me a sense of where they are with things. This is one that came from a new client who allowed me to run a version of what he presented me. I think it is one of the best first-person profiles of somebody who recognizes they have a problem and has some inkling where it came from – and is finally ready to address it. This does get a little graphic in a few parts and this man’s thinking – like any pornography addict – is flawed in many places.

 

I was born in (the very early 1980s) in California to parents that had gotten married because my mother had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. They were Catholics. My father was a narcissist, as in NPD, and took actual pleasure in manipulating my mother. As part of this manipulation, he decided he needed to separate her from the support of her family, so he moved us to Idaho where he had purchased nine acres out in the mountains near absolutely nothing. He had made the purchase with his older brother who just wanted a place to camp and hunt, and we moved out there with the idea that they’d be able to set up a homestead with elbow grease and a few hundred dollars. They were stymied right up front when trying to drill a well with a rented hand operated drill, and we went from tents to looking for something else.

My parents found an abandoned house and “bought it” with a very small down payment and promise of monthly payments, it was owner financed. There was no heat, the pipes had all burst, and the roof leaked, but it was a start. My dad found that there were no jobs available, so he was unable to repair the house in preparation for winter, and we found out first-hand how brutal the winters in Idaho can be. He got a job bucking hay, it paid him $1,800 the first few years, which didn’t really buy much food, even when all you’re buying is bulk beans, rice, and flour.

After that first winter, my dad took a construction job in California and we returned long enough for him to build a few houses. In that time, I befriended my great grandfather and then watched as caught pneumonia and died. I was later told that the family was relieved he had died because he had attempted to grope us children, though I don’t remember this. I had a sister already, I was three at this point and she was two.

We moved back to Idaho with enough money for my father to patch the roof, replace the crumbling plaster and pipes, and cut and split an awful lot of wood from the state forests just outside of town. We proceeded to go through another winter, where things spiraled downward for my parents. I even got to witness my mother shrieking at my father while throwing firewood at him and I had no idea why, or what this meant, except that things were very cold and not safe. And pea soup was terrible.

We continued to live in that house for most of my childhood. All of our belongings came from the dump and my mother recycled or made our clothes. I ended up going to public school for the first three grades, where I was mostly an outcast because I wore trash, but it wasn’t all bad. I made friends with the second-grade teacher and she got me books.

There were now more of us, two younger brothers were added to the brood. I got along with them fine, but they hated each other and were miserable because my father didn’t show them any real attention. In third grade, my father decided to take me out of school and start homeschooling, my mother was the teacher, all grades, all subjects. There was no longer any friends or activities outside the house.

My dad seemed averse to getting any house with heat and paint on the walls, even when he started to make money (which he did). There’s a lot of details in here that aren’t relevant. Life was OK for me during the rental house years, though I started into puberty without any guidance from either of my parents, which was very rough. I had pretty much decided I had cancer of the pee-pee and was going to die and go to hell, because I couldn’t stop thinking about touching girls, and bad thoughts are sins just as real as taking action on those thoughts. But still, there were no friends allowed, so we just kept to ourselves and studied inside.

Then my dad bought 76 acres in northern Idaho, literally 20 minutes from a gas station and nearly an hour from town. We got two old trailers that had been abandoned and hauled them out there. The boys got put in the smaller trailer (there were 9 children now). The heater was an old fuel-oil unit that had a tank inside the trailer. At first, I kept this filled and we had some meager heat, but the firebox in the oil burner from the 1950s had rusted through, and was smoking into the trailer, which didn’t poison us because it was missing windows and the steel doors were warped and didn’t shut. So, that was the end of the heat for the boys.

My father installed a fireplace in the other trailer. Us boys walked down to the back half of the property and started thinning the trees, cutting out the dead ones, and hauling the wood back up to the trailer on our backs to keep our parents (and little sisters) warm. My mother was pregnant at this point and just wanted a house with water and a sewer.

A co-worker of my father’s bought a truck load of plywood and 2x4s and lied about it, said it was being thrown away by the building supply store, otherwise my father wouldn’t have accepted it. I dug an enormous hole and we build an outhouse over it with the materials, so at least we didn’t have to do our business in the elements.

We did have a well drilled at this point and installed a hand pump. It was an eighth mile away from the trailers down a very steep hill in a deep ravine, and as I used to joke, we only had running water if I had the energy to run. I pumped water into five-gallon jugs, two at a time, and carried them back to the trailers, one on each shoulder. I did this a few times every day. Bathing involved a sponge and warming this water on the fireplace.

Making at least a show of getting basic necessities, my dad had me dig a pit for a 2,000-gallon cistern, another one for a 500-gallon septic tank, and then a few thousand feet of leach field. I got up early, finished my homeschool before noon and did this until night fall, every day. My father actually hired a bulldozer to come out and cut a quarter mile long driveway from the county road, after we had gotten the 4×4 Suburban stuck in the muck one too many times. He wasn’t willing to pay for gravel, however, and made some kind of a trade for six or seven loads of pit rock to be delivered. The trucks did a passable job of spreading this and all I had to do was finish spreading it and breaking the pit rock up (head size rocks) with a 16-pound sledge. So, yeah, I kinda felt like I lived on a chain gang.

My mother was miserable during this time, she was pregnant and it wasn’t going well. I was too miserable to really notice, I was digging the trenches through this snow to get the septic tank connected to the bigger trailer so my parents and the girls would have a functioning toilet. I was standing in two feet of water, covered with ice, and ended up getting severe frost bite. I was afraid to tell my parents, so I hid it from everyone. I watched as most of the flesh blackened and peeled away in chunks. My feet did heal, but were agonizing in hot or cold water for the next decade or so.

At this point, I was told that the baby wasn’t going to make it. My dad didn’t want to pay for a funeral, so the two of us made a coffin from fiber reinforce concrete, and as the hard winter transitioned to a flood spring, I began to dig a grave in preparation for the body of my baby brother. I only got to see him for a moment, the back half of his skull was missing, and he died immediately after birth, there was nothing that could be done to save him. My mother was devastated, and I struggled with burying him. At the makeshift funeral, I broke down sobbing too hard to finish, and my grandfather had to step-in to finish shoveling the dirt back into the hole.

My father had effectively nothing to do with the bury, and my mother was too stricken with grief to even notice what burying my baby brother was doing to me. I built a little fence around the sight and planted some flowers.

This coincided with me finding the internet at the place I was going to get help with my math course work. I found the internet, and the same day found porn. It was actually the first time I had seen a female unclothed, and the porn I ran into wasn’t exactly the classiest. I came away from the experience disturbed and sickened, it made me feel like women were incredibly unattractive, a feeling that stuck with me for the next two years of so.

I took the GED to graduate from high-school, home-school style, this was very near my 16th  birthday. On that birthday, I got my first job and shortly thereafter my first car. I spent the next year basically living in my car and working. I saved up a little money and got my first rental, a trailer, to be sure, but a trailer just off the nearby downtown of Paulson…a trailer in human habitable condition, with a heat, and AC and a roof that didn’t leak AND plumbing.

I fell back into porn, not having any girls to even think about, and not being sure how one approached a female, or where. To view porn helped, but it took getting past my aversion to the sight of naked women, which took a bit and kept me firmly on the track of the classiest softcore porn for the next few years. I’d look at it in the evenings and dream about the day when I would meet one of those women.

I had no expectation of ever meeting a girl anywhere near my age. I probably could have, and maybe fared better, but my father was very clear that college was for faggots and I would be a disappointment if I wasted my money on a piece of paper instead of succeeding with my wits. I got into classic car restoration and this more or less replaced my porn and video games almost entirely.

By the time I was 19-20, I had moved back in with my parents, who had finally bought their first normal human dwelling on the outskirts of Paulson. They set about trying to get me back into church by setting me up with a single woman who was 10-15 years or so older than myself. She was the youth counselor and my parents tried to convince me that if I could just get back in church and make it at least look like I believed, I stood a real chance of getting a piece of that, because, they told me, she was a spinster, lonely, willing, and still attractive. She wasn’t attractive to me, honestly, but I was on fire from the waist down, so I spent a couple of months going back to church. I finally decided that the pursuit was completely dishonest and gave up. I wanted sex, but it didn’t really find this woman attractive, and even if I had managed to woo her enough to look past the fact that I was the age of her students, I would have done so based entirely on a lie.

Somewhere around this time, my father decided to burn his bridges at work, sell the house, and move over to the coast of Washington to try to live semi-retired. I made the mistake of moving with them. What I found was an area with incredibly high drug use, nearly everyone I met was an alcoholic, and there was almost no one near my age, male or female. I got a rough job as a mechanic in a bad part of Rayburn, where I was frequently hounded and cat-called by the old gay guys in town. I took to drink and was quickly going through a few fifths a week, along with my normal beer consumption. I had lost all hope and started looking at porn a couple of drunken hours a day.

I finally managed to get a job at the shipyard as a finish carpenter. At first, it felt like a huge step up in the world, but I quickly realized it wasn’t. My drinking did slow a bit, but the porn got heavier. The only women at the shipyard were nearly the only women that I knew, and every guy there was gunning for them no matter age or looks, like these women were meat and they were starving dogs. One of my younger brothers also got a job at the shipyard, he met a meth addict, got her pregnant, got married, and got divorced, all in the course of a year. Now he had child support payments, and she was off working the next opportunity. He fell pretty hard into the bottle and has only recently come back out.

After about a year and a half of this, I was just done. I didn’t care if I lived or not anymore and decided that if I didn’t there was no reason to continue the grind. So, putting all my belongings in the back of a U-Haul, I set out for Texas. I got a job at AT&T and found that there were women, actual female creatures, in my age range. It was amazing.

The job was awful, at least for me, but the fact was that I was no longer in Washington and my drinking fell of very sharply, as did my porn use. I dated a few women, felt like it was at least possible, now, and did eventually meet my wife Carrie.

My parents started their long and incredibly dirty divorce at this time, culminating in a completely fractured family that hasn’t recovered since.

Carrie and I dated for almost exactly one year, and it was without a doubt the happiest year of my life. I had found a woman that I adored, who I thought was incredibly attractive, and was finally getting that thing I never really thought I’d experience: sex. We were codependent in the most literal sense of the word. We did everything together, at the near complete expense of friends and family, isolating us, just the two of us as a unit. It was probably, in retrospect, not the healthiest thing to do, but we were very happy with each other.

Shortly after we met, I lost my job and was on unemployment, which made it difficult to plan our future. We ended up getting married anyhow, after one year of dating very intensely. We had no money to speak of, so we got married by a guy nicknamed “Choppy” with no fanfare and no reception.

Shortly after that, I got a job offer for real money at a time when the recession was at its worst, so we decided to move out to California. We almost immediately ran into problems. My wife was unemployed and felt like she couldn’t get a job due to weed use, legal there, but almost every place still piss-tested. She became unhappy, and I became busy with 12-hour days at work, 6 days a week.

At first, she still dressed up in sexy outfits for me, and we went out to eat when we could, but the bills were crushing, the hours long, and my wife was home alone and bored out of her mind all day. This cocktail of bad things left us drifting apart. She tried to engage me in video games, but I was busy and turned her down, and so we ended up sitting on opposite sides of the same couch. We stopped having sex, which made me bitter.

At some point, actually, the day of my grandmother’s funeral, I complained about being treated like a friend. From that point on, my wife said she had sex out of fear, and felt like the next four years or so was me using her as a fleshlight. This feels very unfair to me, since we were both involved and I no longer wanted to have sex with her, because she clearly didn’t enjoy it, but when I opted out, she cried and said I didn’t find her attractive anymore.

We both filled this roll of unwilling partners, having sex once or twice a month for most of the next few years. I, as you can imagine, fell back into porn in earnest. The more I fell into porn, the less I felt the need to spend time with my wife, and our relationship became increasingly strained. We ended up nearly at divorce and moved back to Texas, where we hoped to put our lives back together, but that hasn’t happened. We have a nice house, I have a job that allows me to work at home, and we still can’t seem to sort out our differences.

I don’t really know what to try next, but I know that my kinks and interests in sex have morphed in the last five years into something that my wife is no longer able to meet me halfway on. Our struggle is that sex is just a way to relieve sexual tension, instead of a real gratification.

As time went on, I got into male-male-female threesome and wife sharing/cuckoldry fantasies and pornography, which meant I was moving further from anywhere my wife was willing to meet me.

Recently, I really stupidly asked her if she was fantasizing about a girl she had just met, while in the middle of us having sex, and the sex stopped immediately and she has been furious with me ever since. Part of the problem we are having with getting past this is that I can’t tell her why I asked her such a thing, and at such a time, because I don’t know why.

She thinks it’s because porn has brainwashed me, and maybe she’s right. I don’t always know why I do the things that I do, and that one I really don’t understand. To make it even more bizarre that I did it, I never gave a fig about lesbian porn, I found it boring. My normal fantasy, which would have upset my wife too, was that I was watching another man have his way with her. I am told that having fantasies like this is due to porn, but I had these kinds of fantasies before I had even seen porn the first time, so I don’t know. I do know that at the height of my porn addiction, it was actually impacting my work to a very unhealthy degree, so it is a valid concern, I can’t deny that.

 

 

It Was Harder Growing Up With Religion Than Recovering Without It

When a new book comes out, I generally get a lot of messages and while it’s happening again, I’ve had several this week that had deeply religious connotations and I don’t know if they don’t read the site or I haven’t explained it well in a long time, but I figure since it’s Sunday, it would be a great day to get into the whole spirituality/religion thing with you.

I apologize up front as I know this is going to be all over the place, long and I’m sure unintentionally offensive to some.

I was raised by a devout Catholic father and a hugely, hugely devout Catholic mother. They were raised by largely absentee, alcoholic parents. Their faith was something they pursued as they both went to parochial school. They didn’t meet until college, but I think the fact their religious upbringing was so similar helped things.

As I told someone the other day, words like “God,” “sin,” “Bible” etc. are a little bit triggering for me and I think I know why. I have started to draw a lot of parallels to my need for control that was borne out of the environment where my abuse took case. Let me stress I was not abused in the church, but being in a place where I felt completely helpless and lost was not good for my mental health.

I was the inquisitive little kid who had questions at Sunday School or for my mother. The answer was usually the same, “Don’t ask questions” or “It’s God’s Law.” That’s not an environment for somebody like me, who already had power and control issues, was going to thrive.

The rare answers I got didn’t make any sense and attending church was a miserable experience, only second to Sunday school. I would say that other kids around me were having a better time, but based on the exodus from the Catholic Church in America, they just weren’t marketing it to kids in the ’80s very well. They did not communicate what God was supposed to be in a way that we understood. Like chemistry or physics in high school, eventually one gives up trying to understand.

Back then, you went through Confirmation at 15 or 16 and I made a deal with my parents that I’d agree to be confirmed, but at that point, I was going to stop going to Church. They did their job getting me that far, but I was done. I think they recognized I wasn’t joking. I didn’t hate their faith, but I didn’t have it.

My Higher Power, The Afterlife and Mom Gets Mad

Keep in mind that while I attempt to be respectful of people’s religious beliefs, I think the biggest thing missing from the religious (not necessarily spiritual) is the ability to put themselves in the shoes of someone who doesn’t subscribe to the exact same doctrine that they do. I mean, you only have to look at history’s great wars; almost all have a religious angle to them. One of the reasons that 12 Step Groups were not my ultimate answer was (aside from the fact that they don’t really mean “higher power of your choosing” because they end every meeting with a Christian prayer) there is no room to talk about what not having a higher power means.

I have never felt powerless over alcohol or porn because despite my lowest points, I was the only who actually had the power. I just chose not to use it. Today, I have a concept of a higher power that I simply call “the universe” and it doesn’t really have a set of rules, dogma or doctrine you have to follow. It doesn’t care if you get a midnight abortion or if gay people marry. It isn’t about raising a dime, nor about any particular book. I don’t pray to it, nor does it threaten to smite me when I don’t. My concept of it is vague, but I don’t need to have all the details. It’s a balancing energy in the universe and that’s all I really need to know. I have a Higher Power and that’s that. It just doesn’t have a name tag or handbook.

People get awkward fast when I tell them that I don’t really care if there’s an afterlife. I don’t think there is, there has never been a single piece of proof there is, and while it’s a pleasant story, I believe that you get your years on Earth and then you’re done. And I’m far more OK with that than the people who hear me say it, because they can’t believe I’d have such a view. It’s fine because it doesn’t have to be your belief, and vice versa.

This is clearly turning into a ramble, but here’s a quick story for you. As I mentioned, I was raised Catholic by two very devout, wonderful people. I was baptized, did the first communion and confirmation all in the same church. Saw many of my relatives married and memorialized there as well, and midnight mass on Christmas was a regular stop for me even long after I left my parents’ home. There was a purge here of Catholic churches in Maine about 10-12 years ago. The numbers of parishoners had dropped so dramatically, the diocese said they couldn’t afford to keep the churches open. My family’s church ended up on this list of closures, like 5 of the 7 churches in our town. With our particular church, the reason given was that it was too expensive to heat the church between September and May. It’s a valid argument. The place was huge and old members were dying off like 8-to-1 against bringing in new members and tithing just wasn’t what it used to be.

My mom asked me to come on that last day and being a sometimes sentimental, nostalgic person, I said OK. I didn’t enjoy the thousands of hours I spent there, but knowing it would be my last hour was a little sad. When the service was over – ironically to a packed house like they hadn’t seen in years – there was an organization in the back that was collecting money to try and overturn one of Maine’s gay rights laws. It didn’t bother me because it’s an issue that’s been decided and the right side won. When we got to the car, my mother let loose on the Church, I think for the first time in her life and I wouldn’t have believed it unless I was there. I’ll spare the long diatribe, but she thankfully saw the complete hypocrisy and overall wrongness of a Church that couldn’t stay open because of lack of funds collecting funds for a group that wants to discriminate. I pointed out how well the UU church was doing in town in terms of both attendance and funding. They, of course, were gay-friendly. Since that day, my mother still goes to church elsewhere, but it’s with far, far less devotion than she did in the past. She’ll even skip Sundays if the mood strikes her. She’s finally come around to what I recognized a long time ago – you need neither a book, nor a building to have a relationship with a Higher Power.

In losing a giant chunk of my mom, the church lost one of its staunchest advocates.

Religion is Not The Only Road to Recovery

I promise I’m about to wrap this up.

I think that there are really three main branches to pornography recovery. Maybe it’s true of all addiction, but since I’m immersed in this culture, it’s what I see. Those three branches are religion, will-power, and science. People can absolutely dabble in more than one, but I find a lot of people who are into things like NoFap (will-power) refuse to see a real therapist and many religious people think you can pray away a medical condition. Obviously, I’m a big believer in the science side of things because that is my experience and it was successful.

Nonetheless, if you go to the WordPress reader and type in “Pornography Addiction” or “Pornography Recovery” you’re going to probably find 75% of the entries have some reference to The Bible. Beyond the whole shaming thing that religious people are so good at doing to others which is an entirely other issue, the overall theme of these entries is that one must follow a religious path to addiction recovery, just like you have to follow their religious path to the afterlife.

It’s just not true. I mean, I can point to plenty of people it worked for, but I can point to plenty of people, myself included, who are happy and healthy without a word of Scripture read in recovery.

I’m OK if you want to use God as a tool for pushing recovery as long as you’re not shaming the addict, but it can’t be the only tool used and it can’t be preached that without God, recovery is impossible. That’s plainly wrong and frankly, a dangerous thing to say for two reasons: a) You wouldn’t encourage a person with cancer or severe hemorrhaging to only pray…you’d get them real medical treatment; b) Somebody believing your attitude may be stopped from recovery if the religious route doesn’t work for them. Is it better they go your way and fail or go their own way and succeed?

I’m sure many of those who actually got this far were offended along the way, and I apologize if my words were ever poorly chosen. There were a few places I debated writing certain things, but went for it anyway. I know that my personal issues with the church and religion are just that – my personal issues – and I know they carry over into my writing, but in a space where I try to be honest to a fault, even when it rankles some feathers, I thought it was time to explain myself.

I don’t know if there was any theme here but I guess sometimes these blogs are just for ranting and working things out.